The surprising finding that amplification of genomic DNA can be directed by only one oligonucleotide primer of arbitrary sequence to produce a characteristic spectrum of short DNA products of varying complexity, was applied as a strategy to detect genetic differences between organisms. This approach, DNA amplification fingerprinting (DAF), does not depend on cloning or DNA sequence information and can generate fingerprints from DNA of viral, bacterial, fungal, plant and animal origins. Primers as short as 5 nucleotides in length can produce complex banding patterns that are resolved by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and silver staining. Amplification fragment length polymorphisms (AFLPs) were detected between different human individuals as well as between soybean cultivars. It is anticipated that DAF will have wide application for DNA analysis.