The molecular basis for the absence of anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins in four independent sodium azide-induced ant18 mutants of barley was examined by sequencing the gene encoding dihydroflavonol 4-reductase in these mutants. Sodium azide generated 21 base substitutions, which corresponds to 0.17% of the 12,704 nucleotides sequenced. Of the substitutions, 86% were nucleotide transitions, and 14% were transversions. A.T-->G.C base pair transitions were about 3 times more frequent than G.C-->A.T transitions. No deletions or mutation hot spots were found. The absence of dihydroflavonol 4-reductase activity in ant18-159, ant18-162, and ant18-164 plants is caused by missense mutations in the respective genes. By using microprojectile bombardment, a plasmid harboring the wild-type Ant18 gene was introduced into ant18-161 mutant cells and resulted in the development of anthocyanin pigmentation, which demonstrates that the mutation is corrected by expression of the introduced gene. On the other hand, a plasmid derivative with the two ant18-161-specific base transitions at the 5' splice site of intron 3 prevented complementation. It is concluded that the absence of detectable mRNA for dihydroflavonol 4-reductase in ant18-161 cells is due to the mutations in the pre-mRNA splice donor site.