Mutations of the retinoblastoma gene are known to cause both nonhereditary and hereditary forms of retinoblastoma. Most patients with hereditary retinoblastoma have bilateral disease. Hereditary predisposition to retinoblastoma is caused by a germline mutation at the retinoblastoma gene locus (RB1) and transmitted as an autosomal dominant trait with 90% penetrance. Three quarters of these alterations represent de novo mutations. Since 75% of these cases are new mutations, there is a need for methods which can be used to identify carriers, so that informed genetic counselling will be available to patients and close relatives. In the present study, leukocyte DNA and RNA from 5 patients with sporadic bilateral retinoblastoma. were subjected to single stranded conformation analysis (SSCP) and amplification and mismatch detection (AMD) analysis. SSCP band shifts were found in 3 of the 5 patients. AMD was applied to reverse-transcriptase PCR and exons of the RB1 gene in the patients with bilateral retinoblastoma. Cleavage was found in 2 patients. Neither of these patients corresponded to the 3 with SSCP band shifts. Thus in total, 5 patients with retinoblastoma had mutations detected by a combination of SSCP and AMD analysis, and proof was sought by means of sequencing. This approach has proved to be a useful method for the rapid detection of mutations in the RB1 gene. The five mutations detected in this study were all novel and emphasise the heterogeneity of the molecular pathology in this gene.