We have isolated a genomic clone containing Arabidopsis thaliana 5S ribosomal RNA (rRNA)-encoding genes (rDNA) by screening an A. thaliana library with a 5S rDNA probe from flax. The clone isolated contains seven repeat units of 497 bp, plus 11 kb of flanking genomic sequence at one border. Sequencing of individual subcloned repeat units shows that the sequence of the 5S rRNA coding region is very similar to that reported for other flowering plants. Four A. thaliana ecotypes were found to contain approx. 1000 copies of 5S rDNA per haploid genome. Southern-blot analysis of genomic DNA indicates that 5S rDNA occurs in long tandem arrays, and shows the presence of numerous restriction-site polymorphisms among the six ecotypes studied.