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We report an inborn error of the tricarboxylic acid cycle, fumarase deficiency, in two siblings born to first cousin parents. They presented with progressive encephalopathy, dystonia, leucopenia, and neutropenia. Elevation of lactate in the cerebrospinal fluid and high fumarate excretion in the urine led us to investigate the activities of the respiratory chain and of the Krebs cycle, and to finally identify fumarase deficiency in these two children. The deficiency was profound and present in all tissues investigated, affecting the cytosolic and the mitochondrial fumarase isoenzymes to the same degree. Analysis of fumarase cDNA demonstrated that both patients were homozygous for a missense mutation, a G-955-->C transversion, predicting a Glu-319-->Gln substitution. This substitution occurred in a highly conserved region of the fumarase cDNA. Both parents exhibited half the expected fumarase activity in their lymphocytes and were found to be heterozygous for this substitution. The present study is to our knowledge the first molecular characterization of tricarboxylic acid deficiency, a rare inherited inborn error of metabolism in childhood.