DNA molecules that differ by a single base-pair can be separated by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis due to the sequence-specific melting properties of DNA. Base modifications such as methylation are also known to affect the melting temperature of DNA. We examined the final position of DNA fragments containing either 5-methyl-cytosine or 6-methyl-adenine in denaturing gradient gels. The presence of a single methylated base within an early melting domain resulted in a well-resolved shift in fragment position relative to the unmethylated sequence. In addition, fragments containing hemimethylated and fully methylated sites could be distinguished, and a proportionally larger shift was observed with an increasing number of methylated bases. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis thus provides a sensitive method for analyzing the methylation state of DNA, which is not dependent on the presence of restriction enzyme cleavage sites. We also demonstrate that denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis can be used to obtain a quantitative estimate of the change in helix stability caused by modification of one or two bases in a complex DNA sequence. Such estimates should allow more accurate modeling of melting of natural DNA sequences. © 1987.