ARM and HEAT motifs are tandemly repeated sequences of approximately 50 amino acid residues that occur in a wide variety of eukaryotic proteins. An exhaustive search of sequence databases detected new family members and revealed that at least 1 in 500 eukaryotic protein sequences contain such repeats. It also rendered the similarity between ARM and HEAT repeats, believed to be evolutionarily related, readily apparent. All the proteins identified in the database searches could be clustered by sequence similarity into four groups: canonical ARM-repeat proteins and three groups of the more divergent HEAT-repeat proteins. This allowed us to build improved sequence profiles for the automatic detection of repeat motifs. Inspection of these profiles indicated that the individual repeat motifs of all four classes share a common set of seven highly conserved hydrophobic residues, which in proteins of known three-dimensional structure are buried within or between repeats. However, the motifs differ at several specific residue positions, suggesting important structural or functional differences among the classes. Our results illustrate that ARM and HEAT-repeat proteins, while having a common phylogenetic origin, have since diverged significantly. We discuss evolutionary scenarios that could account for the great diversity of repeats observed.