A lethal carbamylphosphate synthetase (CPS: EC 184.108.40.206) deficiency (McKusick 23730) was found in a newborn girl; who presented on the second day of life with acute hyperammonaemia, hypotonia, seizures and who died in a coma 6 days after birth. The activity of the mitochondrial urea cycle enzymes, CPS and ornithine transcarbamylase (OTC: EC 220.127.116.11) were measured on a needle biopsy sample taken from liver and showed that CPS was 1.4% of the normal mean (0.09 nmol/min/mg protein) whereas OTC activity was normal (110 nmol/min/mg protein). Immunological analysis of the liver sample showed no detectable immunoreactive CPS and confirmed the presence of normal levels of OTC. RNA was extracted from postmortem liver and in vitro translation experiments showed that there was no translatable CPS mRNA and confirmed that no CPS protein was synthesized in this child. The absence of translatable mRNA is explicable in terms of a genetic defect which results in a failure to synthesize mRNA for CPS, or synthesis of a defective form of mRNA which is not translated.