We have analyzed the intracellular localization of transcripts from the myotonin protein kinase (Mt-PK) gene in fibroblasts and muscle biopsies from myotonic dystrophy patients and normal controls. In affected individuals, a trinucleotide expansion in the gene results in the phenotype, the severity of which is proportional to the repeat length. A fluorochrome-conjugated probe (10 repeats of CAG) hybridized specifically to this expanded repeat. Mt-PK transcripts containing CTG repeat expansions were detected in the nucleus as bright foci in DM patient fibroblasts and muscle biopsies, but not from normal individuals. These foci represented transcripts from the Mt-PK gene since they simultaneously hybridized to fluorochrome-conjugated probes to the 5'-end of the Mt-PK mRNA. A single oligonucleotide probe to the repeat and the sense strand each conjugated to different fluorochromes revealed the gene and the transcripts simultaneously, and indicated that these focal concentrations (up to 13 per nucleus) represented predominately posttranscriptional RNA since only a single focus contained both the DNA and the RNA. This concentration of nuclear transcripts was diagnostic of the affected state, and may represent aberrant processing of the RNA.