Occurrence, distribution, and phenotype of arylsulfatase A (ASA) mutations were investigated in 27 patients with metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD) from Central Europe, mainly from Austria (n = 15) and Poland (n = 9). Genomic DNA from leukocytes, fibroblasts, or paraffin-embedded, formalin-fixed brain or nerve tissue, respectively, was tested by natural or mutated primer-modulated PCR restriction, fragment length polymorphism for the eight most common European mutations: R84Q, S96F, 459+1G > A, I179S, A212V, 1204+1G > A, P426L, and 1401del11bp. The overall identification rate of unrelated MLD alleles was the highest, in adult (90%), medium in juvenile (50%), and lowest in late infantile (36%) MLD patients. The two common alleles, 459+1G > A and P426L, together accounted for 42% of all 50 unrelated MLD alleles investigated; I179S was observed in 6 of 50 MLD alleles (12%). Thus, I179S was far more frequent than hitherto thought and appears to be a third common mutation in Europe. Moreover, a different allelic distribution between Austrian and Polish juvenile patients was disclosed, indicating genetic heterogeneity of MLD even within Central Europe. The genotype-phenotype correlation suggested by Polten et al. [N Engl J Med 324:18-22, 1991] was not followed by all of our MLD patients. Moreover, some MLD patients with identical ASA mutations presented with different phenotypes. This may be due, at least in some cases, to the presence of an additional mutation on individual mutant alleles. Therefore, prediction of the clinical course from single mutation analysis is not possible.