Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) was used in combination with the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to detect sequence variations in the promoter region of the low density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) gene. On the basis of calculated predictive melting properties we designed primers to amplify a 447-bp fragment of the promoter region from position -512 to -66, containing previously identified regulatory sequences. Using a primer with a GC-clamp in combination with restriction enzyme digestion, two melting domains could be analysed simultaneously. By oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis artificial mutants were generated to optimize the conditions and to test the sensitivity of the method. All mutants were readily detected by electrophoresis in a 9% polyacrylamide gel containing a 10%-60% linear denaturing gradient. Using this method, we analysed DNA samples of 350 heterozygous familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH) patients. No mutations were detected, suggesting that mutations in the regulatory elements of the promoter sequence do not play a significant role in the etiology of FH.