The polymorphic cytochrome P450 CYP2D6 is involved in the metabolism of various drugs of wide therapeutic use and is a presumed susceptibility factor for certain environmentally-induced diseases. Our aim was to define the mutations and alleles of the CYP2D6 gene and to evaluate their frequencies in the European population. Using polymerase chain reaction-single strand conformation polymorphism analysis, 672 unrelated subjects were screened for mutations in the 9 exons of the gene and their exon-intron boundaries. A total of 48 point mutations were identified, of which 29 were novel. Mutations 1749 G-->C, 2938 C-->T and 4268 G-->C represented 52.6%, 34.3% and 52.9% of the mutations in the total population, respectively. Of the eight detrimental mutations detected, the 1934 G-->A, the 1795 Tdel and the 2637 Adel accounted for 65.8%, 6.2% and 4.8% respectively, within the poor metabolizer subgroup. Fifty-three different alleles were characterized from the mutation pattern and by allele-specific sequencing. They are derived from three major alleles, namely the wild-type CYP2D6*1A, the functional CYP2D6*2 and the null CYP2D6*4A. Five allelic variants (CYP2D6*1A, *2, *2B, *4A and *5) account for about 87% of all alleles, while the remaining alleles occur with a frequency of 0.1%-2.7%. These data provide a solid basis for future epidemiological, clinical as well as interethnic studies of the CYP2D6 polymorphism and highlight that the described single strand conformation polymorphism method can be successfully used in designing such studies.