The review is focused on recent data on the primary sequences of erythroid and non-erythroid spectrins. As in other fields, the techniques of molecular genetics have allowed great advances in our knowledge of the structure and the genetic story of these molecules. Comparison of alpha-chains sequences of the non-erythroid (fodrin) and erythroid spectrin demonstrated that the fodrin alpha-genes are strictly conserved across species, while the mammalian spectrin genes have diverged rapidly. Spectrin and fodrin alpha-chains are largely composed of homologous 106-amino-acid repeat units. Spectrin alpha-chain is lacking a 37 amino-acid sequence which bears the calmodulin-binding site of the fodrin alpha-chain. The highest degree of homology between the spectrin alpha-chain and the fodrin alpha-chain lies in a central atypical segment unrelated to the canonical repeat sequence. This region is closely related to the N-terminal segment of several src-tyrosine kinases and to a domain of phospholipase C. Like the spectrin alpha-chain, the major central part of the spectrin beta-chain is made up of repeat units of 106 amino-acids. The N-terminal domain of the beta-chain, and especially the actin binding site, is the region of greatest homology among members of the spectrin super-family, including Drosophila spectrin beta-chain, dystrophin and alpha-actinin. The C-terminal extremity of the erythroid beta-chain is also of great interest, since tissue-specific differential processing of 3'beta-spectrin gene pre-mRNA generates a beta spectrin-isoform with a unique C-terminus in human skeletal muscle.