Infantile nephropathic cystinosis is a rare, autosomal recessive disease caused by a defect in the transport of cystine across the lysosomal membrane and characterized by early onset of renal proximal tubular dysfunction. Late-onset cystinosis, a rarer form of the disorder, is characterized by onset of symptoms between 12 and 15 years of age. We previously characterized the cystinosis gene, CTNS, and identified pathogenic mutations in patients with infantile nephropathic cystinosis, including a common, approximately 65 kb deletion which encompasses exons 1-10. Structure predictions suggested that the gene product, cystinosin, is a novel integral lysosomal membrane protein. We now examine the predicted effect of mutations on this model of cystinosin. In this study, we screened patients with infantile nephropathic cystinosis, those with late-onset cystinosis and patients whose phenotype does not fit the classical definitions. We found 23 different mutations in CTNS; 14 are novel mutations. Out of 25 patients with infantile nephropathic cystinosis, 12 have two severely truncating mutations, which is consistent with a loss of functional protein, and 13 have missense or in-frame deletions, which would result in disruption of transmembrane domains and loss of protein function. Mutations found in two late-onset patients affect functionally unimportant regions of cystinosin, which accounts for their milder phenotype. For three patients, the age of onset of cystinosis was <7 years but the course of the disease was milder than the infantile nephropathic form. This suggests that the missense mutations found in these individuals allow production of functional protein and may also indicate regions of cystinosin which are not functionally important.