Microsatellites are a ubiquitous class of simple repetitive DNA sequence. An excess of such repetitive tracts has been described in all eukaryotes analyzed and is thought to result from the mutational effects of replication slippage. Large-scale genomic and EST sequencing provides the opportunity to evaluate the abundance and relative distribution of microsatellites between transcribed and nontranscribed regions and the relationship of these features to haploid genome size. Although this has been studied in microbial and animal genomes, information in plants is limited. We assessed microsatellite frequency in plant species with a 50-fold range in genome size that is mostly attributable to the recent amplification of repetitive DNA. Among species, the overall frequency of microsatellites was inversely related to genome size and to the proportion of repetitive DNA but remained constant in the transcribed portion of the genome. This indicates that most microsatellites reside in regions pre-dating the recent genome expansion in many plants. The microsatellite frequency was higher in transcribed regions, especially in the untranslated portions, than in genomic DNA. Contrary to previous reports suggesting a preferential mechanism for the origin of microsatellites from repetitive DNA in both animals and plants, our findings show a significant association with the low-copy fraction of plant genomes.