Hereditary angioedema (HAE) is due to a variety of defects in the C1 inhibitor gene (C1NH gene), including approximately 20% of partial deletions/duplications whose boundaries are usually within Alu repeats. To ensure complete molecular characterization of C1 inhibitor deficiencies a fluorescent multiplex assay was constructed to amplify simultaneously five exons of C1NH and an exon of the BRCA1 gene. PCR protocols were optimized for these amplicons (size range between 300 and 700 bp). Forward and reverse chimeric primers that carry strand-specific 5′ tags of 16 nucleotides were used to ensure similar levels of PCR products for each amplicon in the multiplex. Data were analyzed by superposing fluorescent profiles of test and control DNA and by visually comparing the normalized peak levels of corresponding amplicons, rather than by calculating the ratios of peak areas. Tests on a collection of known defects, including five different Alu-mediated deletions and a partial duplication have validated this approach. In a study of 19 sporadic cases of HAE, of which four had failed to reveal mutations upon screening all exons by fluorescent chemical cleavage, three de novo deletions were diagnosed by using this multiplex PCR approach: a deletion of exon 4, a deletion of exons 5 and 6, and an apparently complete gene deletion. Besides being suitable for the initial DNA screening of the C1NH gene in HAE patients prior to screening for point mutations, this method can be easily adapted to complex genes for the screening of rearrangements.Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.