We present a simple nonradioactive assay based on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in combination with denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE), which allows comprehensive mutation scanning of the entire coding sequence and splice junctions of the p53 gene in one analytical step. The key features of the present method are (1) all fragments can be amplified using one common PCR protocol; (2) all fragments can be scanned for mutations on a single "broad-range" denaturing gradient gel; and (3) all fragments were tailored by the attachment of appropriate GC clamps and otherwise manipulated to consist of only two melting domains in order to maximize resolution of mutations by DGGE. The entire procedure starting with a sample of genomic DNA can be completed within 6 hr and has the potential to detect any sequence variation, irrespective of its location in the p53 gene. The mutation detection sensitivity was demonstrated by the analysis of 26 constructed control mutations distributed over the whole of the p53 gene. We have applied the method to genetic diagnosis in 43 cases of colorectal cancer. Overall, a point mutation, microdeletion, or microinsertion was found in 26 (61%) of the tumors. In addition to missense and frameshift mutations within exons 4-8, a 20-bp insertion in exon 11 was found in one sample, illustrating the importance of comprehensive gene scanning for reliable diagnosis.