Early-onset torsion dystonia is an autosomal dominant hyperkinetic movement disorder that has recently been linked to a 3-base pair deletion in the DYT1 gene. The DYT1 gene encodes a 332-amino acid protein, torsin A, that bears low but significant homology to the Hsp100/Clp family of ATPase chaperones. The deletion in DYT1 associated with torsion dystonia results in the loss of one of a pair of glutamic acid residues residing near the C terminus of torsin A (DeltaE-torsin A). At present, little is known about the expression, subcellular distribution, and/or function of either the torsin A or DeltaE-torsin A protein. When transfected into mammalian cells, both torsin A and DeltaE-torsin A were found to behave as lumenally oriented glycoproteins. Immunofluorescence studies revealed that torsin A localized to a diffuse network of intracellular membranes displaying significant co-immunoreactivity for the endoplasmic reticulum resident protein BiP, whereas DeltaE-torsin A resided in large spheroid intracellular structures exclusive of BiP immunoreactivity. These results initially suggested that DeltaE-torsin A might exist as insoluble aggregates. However, both torsin A and DeltaE-torsin A were readily solubilized by nonionic detergents, were similarly accessible to proteases, and displayed equivalent migration patterns on sucrose gradients. Collectively, these data support that both the wild type and torsion dystonia-associated forms of torsin A are properly folded, lumenal proteins of similar oligomeric states. The potential relationship between the altered subcellular distribution of DeltaE-torsin A and the disease-inducing phenotype of the protein is discussed.