The standard comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) protocol relies on availability of macroscopic tumor samples, which do not contain too much interfering normal cells. Recently, CGH after universal amplification of genomic DNA with degenerate oligonucleotide primed PCR (DOP-PCR) has been used to detect genetic aberrations in microdissected tumor specimens. However, owing to the technical difficulties, CGH results of only few microdissected samples have so far been published. We have developed an improved protocol for DOP-PCR, which includes direct incorporation of fluorochrome-conjugated nucleotides into the PCR product. Among the four polymerase enzymes tested. ThermoSequenase gave the best yield, with PCR products ranging from 100-4,000 bp. A two-step PCR-procedure was used, consisting of a preamplification with low stringency conditions followed by amplification in more stringent conditions. The method was first validated by hybridizing DOP-PCR-amplified normal DNA against nick-translated reference DNA, which showed uniform amd even hybridization result for all chromosomes. Comparison of DOP-PCR CGH to conventional CGH in MCF-7 breast cancer cell line further indicated that genetic aberrations can be reliable detected after DOP-PCR amplification. The sensitivity of the DOP-PCR-CGH was tested by serial dilution of MCF-7 DNA. Fifty picograms of sample DNA (corresponding roughly to two MCF-7 cells) was sufficient for high quality CGH. Experiments with cells microdissected from intraductal breast cancer demonstrated that carcinoma cells from 1 to 2 ducts were sufficient for a successful DOP-PCR CGH analysis. We conclude that the improved DOP-PCR-CGH protocol provides a powerful tool to study genetic aberrations in different histological subpopulations of malignant as well as precancerous lesions. DOP-PCR also improves the success rate of conventional paraffin-block CGH, because a poor quality or a too low yield of extracted DNA can be compensated by universal DNA amplification by DOP-PCR.