A large number of point mutations in the p53 gene have been detected by capillary zone electrophoresis via single-strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP) analysis. A much improved detection sensitivity was obtained via the following modifications in running conditions: use of low-viscosity 3% hydroxyethylcellulose (HEC), a neutral pH (pH 6.8) buffer, in which the standard Tris moiety was substituted with a 2-(N-morpholino)ethanesulfonic acid (MES)/Tris mixture, use of SYBR Green II for improved fluorescent signal at the lower pH adopted; and, finally, the use of a temperature gradient in the 15-25 degrees C interval, for favoring the conformational transitions in the mutated samples. The typical temperature gradient activated had a slope of 2 degrees C/min and were induced externally. A total of 24 samples from affected patients, both in the homo- and heterozygous state, were analyzed. All the mutations could be detected by this improved protocol, raising the sensitivity from the standard ca. 80% of conventional SSCP to essentially 100% with the present methodology. All the mutations were confirmed by sequence analysis of the affected samples.