PCR of a Candida albicans cytochrome P-450 lanosterol-α-demethylase (P450-L1A1) gene segment is a rapid and sensitive method of detection in clinical specimens. This enzyme is a target for azole antifungal action. In order to directly detect and identify the clinically most important species of Candida, we cloned and sequenced 1.3-kbp fragments of the cytochrome P450- L1A1 genes from Torulopsis (Candida) glabrata and from Candida krusei. These segments were compared with the published sequences from C. albicans and Candida tropicalis. Amplimers for gene sequences highly conserved throughout the fungal kingdom were first used; positive PCR results were obtained for C. albicans, T. glabrata, C. krusei, Candida parapsilosis, C. tropicalis, Cryptococcus neoformans, and Trichosporon beigelii DNA extracts. Primers were then selected for a highly variable region of the gene, allowing the species- specific detection from purified DNA of C. albicans, T. glabrata, C. krusei, and C. tropicalis. The assay sensitivity as tested for C. albicans in seeded clinical specimens such as blood, peritoneal fluid, or urine was 10 to 20 cells per 0.1 ml. Compared with results obtained by culture, the sensitivity, specificity, and efficiency of the species-specific nested PCR tested with 80 clinical specimens were 71, 95, and 83% for C. albicans and 100, 97, and 98% for T. glabrata, respectively.