Comparative genetic mapping has indicated that the grass family (Poaceae) exhibits extensive chromosomal collinearity. In order to investigate microcollinearity in these genomes, several laboratories have begun to undertake comparative DNA sequence analyses of orthologous chromosome segments from various grass species. Five different regions have now been investigated in detail, with four regions sequenced for maize, rice and sorghum, plus two for wheat and one for barley. In all five of these segments, gene rearrangements were observed in at least one of the comparisons. Most of the detected rearrangements are small, involving the inversion, duplication, translocation or deletion of DNA segments that contain only 1-3 genes. Even closely related species, like barley and wheat or maize and sorghum, exhibit approximately 20% alterations in gene content or orientation. These results indicate that thousands of small genetic rearrangements have occurred in several grass lineages since their divergence from common ancestors. These rearrangements have largely been missed by genetic mapping and will both complicate and enrich the use of comparative genetics in the grasses.