Comparative RFLP mapping has revealed extensive conservation of marker order in different grass genomes. However, microcolinearity studies at the sequence level have shown rapid genome evolution and many exceptions to colinearity. Most of these studies have focused on a limited size of genomic fragment and the extent of microcolinearity over large distances or across entire genomes remains poorly characterized in grasses. Here, we have investigated the microcolinearity between the rice genome and a total of 1,500 kb from physical BAC contigs on wheat chromosome 1AS. Using ESTs mapped in wheat chromosome bins as an additional source of physical data, we have identified 27 conserved orthologous sequences between wheat chromosome 1AS and a region of 1,210 kb located on rice chromosome 5S. Our results extend the orthology described earlier between wheat chromosome group 1S and rice chromosome 5S. Microcolinearity was found to be frequently disrupted by rearrangements which must have occurred after the divergence of wheat and rice. At the Lr10 orthologous loci, microrearrangements were due to the insertion of mobile elements, but also originated from gene movement, amplification, deletion and inversion. These mechanisms of genome evolution are at the origin of the mosaic conservation observed between the orthologous regions. Finally, in silico mapping of wheat genes identified an intragenomic colinearity between fragments from rice chromosome 1L and 5S, suggesting an ancestral segmental duplication in rice.