Bread wheat is an allohexaploid with genome composition AABBDD. Phytochrome C is a gene involved in photomorphogenesis that has been used extensively for phylogenetic analyses. In wheat, the PhyC genes are single copy in each of the three homoeologous genomes and map to orthologous positions on the long arms of the group 5 chromosomes. Comparative sequence analysis of the three homoeologous copies of the wheat PhyC gene and of some 5 kb of upstream region has demonstrated a high level of conservation of PhyC, but frequent interruption of the upstream regions by the insertion of retroelements and other repeats. One of the repeats in the region under investigation appeared to have inserted before the divergence of the diploid wheat genomes, but was degraded to the extent that similarity between the A and D copies could only be observed at the amino acid level. Evidence was found for the differential presence of a foldback element and a miniature inverted-repeat transposable element (MITE) 5' to PhyC in different wheat cultivars. The latter may represent the first example of an active MITE family in the wheat genome. Several conserved non-coding sequences were also identified that may represent functional regulatory elements. The level of sequence divergence (Ks) between the three wheat PhyC homoeologs suggests that the divergence of the diploid wheat ancestors occurred some 6.9 Mya, which is considerably earlier than the previously estimated 2.5-4.5 Mya. Ka/Ks ratios were <0.15 indicating that all three homoeologs are under purifying selection and presumably represent functional PhyC genes. RT-PCR confirmed expression of the A, B and D copies. The discrepancy in evolutionary age of the wheat genomes estimated using sequences from different parts of the genome may reflect a mosaic origin of some of the Triticeae genomes.