We have developed a technique called "LSSP-PCR" (low-stringency single specific primer PCR) that detects single or multiple mutations in DNA. A purified DNA fragment is submitted to PCR by using a single primer specific for one of the extremities of the fragment, under conditions of very low stringency. The primer hybridizes specifically to its complementary extremity and nonspecifically to multiple sites within the fragment, in a sequence-dependent manner. A complex set of reaction products is thus created that, when separated by electrophoresis, constitutes a unique "gene signature." We here report the application of LSSP-PCR to the detection of sequence variation in the control (D-loop) region of human mtDNA, which is known to differ significantly between unrelated individuals. We prepared human DNA samples from blood and amplified a 1024-bp portion of the mtDNA control region, using primers L15996 and H408. The amplified mtDNA fragments were then reamplified under LSSP-PCR conditions by using L15996 or H408 as drivers to produce complex signatures that always differed between unrelated individuals and yet were highly reproducible. In contrast, all mother-child pairs tested were identical, as expected from the matrilineal inheritance of mtDNA. Thus, the use of LSSP-PCR to produce D-loop signatures constitutes a powerful new technique for mtDNA-based comparative identity testing.