More than 500 unrelated patients with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) were screened for mutations in the NF1 gene. For each patient, the whole coding sequence and all splice sites were studied for aberrations, either by the protein truncation test (PTT), temperature-gradient gel electrophoresis (TGGE) of genomic PCR products, or, most often, by direct genomic sequencing (DGS) of all individual exons. A total of 301 sequence variants, including 278 bona fide pathogenic mutations, were identified. As many as 216 or 183 of the genuine mutations, comprising 179 or 161 different ones, can be considered novel when compared to the recent findings of Upadhyaya and Cooper, or to the NNFF mutation database. Mutation-detection efficiencies of the various screening methods were similar: 47.1% for PTT, 53.7% for TGGE, and 54.9% for DGS. Some 224 mutations (80.2%) yielded directly or indirectly premature termination codons. These mutations showed even distribution over the whole gene from exon 1 to exon 47. Of all sequence variants determined in our study, <20% represent C-->T or G-->A transitions within a CpG dinucleotide, and only six different mutations also occur in NF1 pseudogenes, with five being typical C-->T transitions in a CpG. Thus, neither frequent deamination of 5-methylcytosines nor interchromosomal gene conversion may account for the high mutation rate of the NF1 gene. As opposed to the truncating mutations, the 28 (10.1%) missense or single-amino-acid-deletion mutations identified clustered in two distinct regions, the GAP-related domain (GRD) and an upstream gene segment comprising exons 11-17. The latter forms a so-called cysteine/serine-rich domain with three cysteine pairs suggestive of ATP binding, as well as three potential cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) recognition sites obviously phosphorylated by PKA. Coincidence of mutated amino acids and those conserved between human and Drosophila strongly suggest significant functional relevance of this region, with major roles played by exons 12a and 15 and part of exon 16.