Most short interspersed elements (SINEs) in eukaryotic genomes originate from tRNA and have internal promoters for RNA polymerase III. The promoter contains two boxes (A and B) spaced by approximately 33 bp. We used oligonucleotide primers specific to these boxes to detect SINEs in the genomic DNA by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Appropriate DNA fragments were revealed by PCR in 30 out of 35 eukaryotic species suggesting the wide distribution of SINEs. The PCR products were used for hybridization screening of genomic libraries which resulted in identification of four novel SINE families. The application of this approach is illustrated by discovery of a SINE family in the genome of the bat Myotis daubentoni. Members of this SINE family termed VES have an additional B-like box, a putative polyadenylation signal and RNA polymerase III terminator.