Toxic multinodular goiter, a heterogeneous disease producing hyperthyroidism, is frequently found in iodine-deficient areas. The pathogenesis of this common clinical entity is still unclear. The aim of the present study was to search for activating TSH receptor (TSHr) or Gs alpha mutations in areas of toxic or functionally autonomous multinodular goiters that appeared hyperfunctioning at thyroid scintiscan but did not clearly correspond to definite nodules at physical or ultrasonographic examination. Surgical tissue specimens from nine patients were carefully dissected, matching thyroid scintiscan and thyroid ultrasonography, to isolate hyperfunctioning and nonfunctioning areas even if they did not correspond to well-defined nodules. TSHr and Gs alpha mutations were searched for by direct sequencing after PCR amplification of genomic DNA. Only 2 adenomas were identified at microscopic examination, whereas the remaining 18 hyperfunctioning areas corresponded to hyperplastic nodules containing multiple aggregates of micromacrofollicules not surrounded by a capsule. Activating TSHr mutations were detected in 14 of these 20 hyperfunctioning areas, whereas no mutation was identified in nonfunctioning nodules or areas contained in the same gland. No Gs alpha mutation was found. In conclusion, activating TSHr mutations are present in the majority of nonadenomatous hyperfunctioning nodules scattered throughout the gland in patients with toxic or functionally autonomous multinodular goiter.