An inherited, structurally abnormal and superactive form of the enzyme 5-phosphoribosyl 1-pyrophosphate (PP-ribose-P) synthetase (EC 188.8.131.52) has been characterized in fibroblasts cultured from a 14-yr-old male (S.M.) with clinical manifestations of uric acid overproduction present since infancy. PP-ribose-P synthetase from the cells of this child showed four- to fivefold greater than normal resistance to purine nucleotide (ADP and GDP) feedback inhibition of enzyme activity and hyperbolic rather than sigmoidal inorganic phosphate (Pi) activation in incompletely dialyzed extracts. Excessive maximal velocity of the enzyme reaction catalyzed by the mutant enzyme was indicated by: enzyme activities twice those of normal at all concentrations of Pi in chromatographed fibroblast extracts; normal affinity constants for substrates and for the activator, Mg2+; and twofold greater than normal activity per immunoreactive enzyme molecule. The mutant enzyme thus possessed deficient regulatory and superactive catalytic properties, two mechanisms previously demonstrated individually to underlie the excessive PPRribose-P and uric acid synthesis of affected members of families with superactive PP-ribose-P synthetases. Increased PP-ribose-P concentration (4-fold) and generation (2.7-fold) and enhanced rates of PP-ribose-P dependent purine synthetic reactions, including purine synthesis de novo, in S.M. fibroblasts confirmed the functional significance of this patient's mutant enzyme. Diminished stability of the variant PP-ribose-P synthetase was manifested in vitro by increased thermal lability and in vivo by deficiency of enzyme activity at Pi concentrations greater than 0.3 mM in hemolysates and by an accelerated, age-related decrement in enzyme activity in lysates of erythrocytes separated by specific density. Despite the diminished amount of PP-ribose-P synthetase in the S.M. erythrocyte population, S.M. erythrocytes had increased PP-ribose-P concentration and increased rates of incorporation of [14C]adenine and hypoxanthine into acid-soluble nucleotides during incubation at 1 mM Pi. These findings provided further confirmation of the extent to which PP-ribose-P synthesis is modulated in the normal cell at physiological Pi concentration by purine nucleotide inhibition of PP-ribose-P synthetase. The activity and kinetic characteristics of PP-ribose-P synthetase from fibroblasts of the mother of patient S.M. indicated that this woman was a heterozygous carrier of the enzyme defect expressed in hemizygous manner by her son.