We have investigated an Italian family with generalized resistance to thyroid hormone (RTH), consisting of two individuals with elevated serum thyroid hormones (TH) and a non-suppressed TSH, together with unaffected family members, for a mutation in the thyroid hormone receptor beta gene (hTR beta). We have identified a single nucleotide substitution (1321 CTT to GTT) corresponding to a leucine to valine substitution at codon 346 (L346V) in the predicted protein. The index case and her affected child are heterozygous for the receptor defect, with normal sequence in unaffected family members. Furthermore, both parents of the index case were unaffected, suggesting that the mutation had arisen de novo. When expressed in vitro, the L346V mutant receptor showed a marked reduction in its affinity for tri-iodothyronine (T3), impaired ligand-dependent transactivation and potent dominant negative activity. Its functional impairment could not be alleviated, even at supraphysiological concentrations of T3, suggesting that the mutation might interfere with the intrinsic ligand-dependent transactivation function (AF-2) located in the hormone binding domain of hTR beta. Finally, the presence of the L346V mutation in the son of the propositus, who died from complications associated with congenital heart disease, raises the possibility that RTH might have contributed to the pathogenesis or severity of the latter.