The population genetic structure of the periwinkle Littorina littorea was analysed using random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD). Three primers, coding for six putative polymorphic loci were surveyed to infer the genetic structure of seven populations located along the heavily polluted Western (i.e. in order of decreasing pollution load W1, W2, W3 and R1) and the relatively clean Eastern Scheldt (E1, E2 and E3) estuary (The Netherlands). A genetic distance based UPGMA (Unweighted pair group method with arithmetic mean) dendrogram revealed an estuary-related structuring, as Eastern and Western Scheldt sites formed two separate clusters. The Western Scheldt cluster was, however, much more heterogeneous, with three RAPD loci revealing a significant genetic heterogeneity compared to none when the Eastern Scheldt sites were compared. Overall mean heterozygosity levels were high, but did not reveal a difference between the estuaries. The current data (1) confirm the patterns of variation previously observed with electrophoretic analyses of esterases and (2) strongly support that these patterns of variation have a genetic basis, in the presence of intense gene flow. In addition, it is suggested that selection, rather than bottleneck effects, induced by the less favourable living conditions at W1, W2 and W3 are responsible for the genetic patterning.