The high degree of polymorphism displayed by DNA microsatellites makes them useful as DNA markers in linkage studies. A search of the DNA sequence databases revealed that the locations of dinucleotide microsatellites are often conserved among mammalian species, enabling the prediction of the presence of DNA microsatellites using comparative genetic data. In closely related species such as cattle and sheep, this conservation was close enough to allow PCR primers designed for use in one species to be used to analyze microsatellite length polymorphism in the other. A total of 48 sets of primer pairs, flanking bovine microsatellites and giving polymorphic PCR products in that species, were tested with template DNA from sheep, horses, and humans. Specific products were obtained in 27 cases (56%) with ovine DNA, 20 of which (42%) showed polymorphisms. With equine DNA, 3 (6.2%) gave specific but monomorphic products, while no specific products were obtained using human DNA. The ability to use heterologous PCR primers, coupled with comparative mapping information will facilitate the use of DNA microsatellites in gene mapping studies in closely related species such as cattle and sheep, rat and mouse, or primates.