We report five South African families of northern European descent (pedigrees 161, 162, 163, 164, and 166) in whom Romano-Ward long QT syndrome (LQT) segregates. The disease mapped to a group of linked markers on chromosome 11p15.5, with maximum combined two point lod scores, all generated at theta = 0, of 15.43 for the D11S922, 10.51 for the D11S1318, and 14.29 for the tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) loci. Recent studies have shown that LQT is caused by an Ala212Val mutation in a potassium channel gene (KVLQT1) in pedigrees 161 to 164. We report that the same mutation is responsible for the disease in pedigree 166. Haplotype construction showed that all the families shared a common haplotype, suggesting a founder gene effect. DNA based identification of gene carriers allowed assessment of the clinical spectrum of LQT. The QTc interval was significantly shorter in both carriers and non-carriers in pedigree 161 (0.48 s and 0.39 s, respectively) than the same two groups in pedigree 161 (0.52 s and 0.42 s, respectively). The spectrum of clinical symptoms appeared more severe in pedigree 162. The possible influence of modulating genetic factors, such as HLA status and sex of family members, on the expression of an LQT founder gene is discussed.