Gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs) are the most common mesenchymal neoplasms of the gastrointestinal tract. Despite clinicopathological differences, GISTs share oncogenic KIT or platelet-derived growth factor-alpha (PDGFRA) mutations. Imatinib, KIT and PDGFRA inhibitor, has been successfully used in the treatment of metastatic GISTs. There are primary KIT or PDGFRA mutations diagnosed before imatinib treatment, linked to GIST pathogenesis, and secondary mutations detected during treatment, causing drug resistance. KIT exon 11 mutations are the most common. Gastric GISTs with exon 11 deletions are more aggressive than those with substitutions. KIT exon 11 mutants respond well to imatinib. Less common KIT exon 9 Ala502_Tyr503dup mutants occur predominantly in intestinal GISTs and are less sensitive to imatinib. An Asp842Val substitution in exon 18 is the most common PDGFRA mutation. GISTs with such mutation are resistant to imatinib. PDGFRA mutations are associated with gastric GISTs, epithelioid morphology and a less malignant course of disease. GISTs in neurofibromatosis 1, Carney triad and paediatric tumours generally lack KIT and PDGFRA mutations. Secondary KIT mutations affect exons 13-17. GISTs with secondary mutations in exon 13 and 14 are sensitive to sunitinib, another tyrosine kinase inhibitor. KIT and PDGFRA genotyping is important for GIST diagnosis and assessment of sensitivity to tyrosine kinase inhibitors.