Hemangioblastoma is one of the benign tumors in the central nervous system. It is often associated with the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease, a well known hereditary tumor syndrome. It is believed that inactivation of both alleles of VHL tumor suppressor gene is essential in the tumorigenic processes in hemangioblastomas associated with VHL disease. The molecular basis for the development of sporadic hemangioblastomas is not known. Here, we analyzed 13 cases of primary sporadic hemangloblastomas for somatic mutations of VHL gene with single strand conformational polymorphism analyses of the tumor DNAs. We detected abnormal single strand conformational polymorphism pattern in 7 tumors (54%). Of these 7 possibly mutated tumors, we successfully characterized 3 tumors by direct sequencing. We were unable to sequence 4 tumors because of the poor quality of DNA obtained from paraffin blocks. Somatic mutations in the 3 tumors were 2 missense mutations and 1 microdeletion. These mutations were observed in 1 tumor in exon 1 and 2 tumors in exon 2. Our results suggest that mutations of VHL tumor suppressor gene are involved in the development of at least 20% of sporadic central nervous system hemangioblastomas.