We generated a high-density genetic linkage map of soybean using expressed sequence tag (EST)-derived microsatellite markers. A total of 6920 primer pairs (10.9%) were designed to amplify simple sequence repeats (SSRs) from 63,676 publicly available non-redundant soybean ESTs. The polymorphism of two parent plants, the Japanese cultivar 'Misuzudaizu' and the Chinese line 'Moshidou Gong 503', were examined using 10% polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. Primer pairs showing polymorphism were then used for genotyping 94 recombinant inbred lines (RILs) derived from a cross between the parents. In addition to previously reported markers, 680 EST-derived microsatellite markers were selected and subjected to linkage analysis. As a result, 935 marker loci were mapped successfully onto 20 linkage groups, which totaled 2700.3 cM in length; 693 loci were detected using the 668 EST-derived microsatellite markers developed in this study, the other 242 loci were detected with 105 RFLP markers, 136 genome-derived microsatellite markers, and one phenotypic marker. We examined allelic variation among 23 soybean cultivars/lines and a wild soybean line using 668 mapped EST-derived microsatellite markers (corresponding to 686 marker loci), in order to determine the transferability of the markers among soybean germplasms. A limited degree of macrosynteny was observed at the segmental level between the genomes of soybean and the model legume Lotus japonicus, which suggests that considerable genome shuffling occurred after separation of the species and during establishment of the paleopolyploid soybean genome.