Autosomal recessive congenital ichthyoses are disorders of epidermal cornification, but are clinically and etiologically heterogeneous. Some cases, known as lamellar ichthyosis, are caused by mutations in the TGM1 gene encoding transglutaminase 1, which result in markedly diminished or lost enzyme activity and/or protein. In some cases, this enzyme is present but there is little detectable activity, and in other clinically similar cases, transglutaminase 1 levels appear to be normal. Since conventional enzyme assays and mutational analyses are tedious, we developed a novel assay for the rapid screening of transglutaminase 1 activity using covalent incorporation of biotinylated substrate peptides into skin cryostat sections. Coupled with immunohistochemical assays using transglutaminase 1 antibodies, our method allows rapid identification of those cases caused by alterations in this enzyme.