Hereditary hyperferritinaemia cataract syndrome is an autosomal dominant disorder caused by heterogeneous mutations of the iron regulatory element (IRE) in the ferritin l-chain mRNA. The mutations are rare and fast DNA scanning would facilitate diagnosis. The aim of the study was to compare the analytical performances of two fast DNA scanning techniques: denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography (DHPLC) and double-gradient denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DG-DGGE). We analysed the sequence encoding the 5' untranslated flanking region of ferritin l-chain mRNA, which includes an IRE stem loop structure. The two systems unambiguously identified all the 12 accessible mutations in a single run, including the difficult C-G transversions. DHPLC and DG-DGGE identified seven abnormal patterns in DNA samples from 47 subjects with unexplained hyperferritinaemia; all had mutations in the IRE sequence, including two not reported before: C36G and A37G. The scanning of 250 DNA samples from subjects genotyped for HFE led to the identification of four new mutations, all outside the IRE structure: C10T, C16T, C90T and del-T156. We conclude that DHPLC, similar to DG-DGGE, detects all the mutations in the l-ferritin 5'UTR sequence in a single run, and that various mutations occur outside the IRE structure.