To obtain an inventory of all human genes that code for alpha-crystallin-related small heat shock proteins (sHsps), the databases available from the public International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium (IHGSC) and the private Celera human genome project were exhaustively searched. Using the human Hsp27 protein sequence as a query in the protein databases, which are derived from the predicted genes in the human genome, 10 sHsp-like proteins were retrieved, including Hsp27 itself. Repeating the search procedure with all 10 proteins and with a variety of more distantly related animal sHsps, no further human sHsps were detected, as was the case when searches were performed at deoxyribonucleic acid level. The 10 retrieved proteins comprised the 9 earlier recognized human sHsps (Hsp27/HspB1, HspB2, HspB3, alphaA-crystallin/HspB4, alphaB-crystallin/HspB5, Hsp20/HspB6, cvHsp/HspB7, H11/HspB8, and HspB9) and a sperm tail protein known since 1993 as outer dense fiber protein 1 (ODF1). Although this latter protein probably serves a structural role and has a high cysteine content (14%), it clearly contains an alpha-crystallin domain that is characteristic for sHsps. ODF1 can as such be designated as HspB10. The expression of all 10 human sHsp genes was confirmed by expressed sequence tag (EST) searches. For Hsp27/HspB1, 2 retropseudogenes were detected. The HspB1-10 genes are dispersed over 9 chromosomes, reflecting their ancient origin. Two of the genes (HspB3 and HspB9) are intronless, and the others have 1 or 2 introns at various positions. The transcripts of several sHsp genes, notably HspB7, display low levels of alternative splicing, as supported by EST evidence, which may result in minor amounts of isoforms at the protein level.