Magnaporthe grisea causes rice blast, the most important fungal disease of rice. The segregation of genes controlling virulence of M. grisea on rice was studied to establish the genetic basis of cultivar specificity in this host-parasite interaction. Full-sib progeny and parent isolates Guy11 and 2539 of M. grisea were inoculated onto rice (Oryza sativa) cultivar 'CO39' and five near-isogenic lines (NILs) of CO39. Each NIL contained a different single gene affecting resistance to specific isolates of M. grisea. No differential interactions between NILs and progeny or parents were observed; parents and progeny pathogenic on CO39 were pathogenic on all five NILs. Segregation ratios of 101 full-sib progeny, 117 progeny from full-sib parents, and 109 backcross progeny, indicated a common single gene affecting pathogenicity on CO39 and the five NILs. A subset of the above 327 isolates (43 fullsib progeny, 37 progeny from full-sib parents, and 32 backcross progeny) were inoculated onto rice cultivar '51583'; all were pathogenic, indicating that cultivar specificity to CO39 was segregating in this population of isolates. The locus controlling cultivar specificity, named avrCO39, was mapped to chromosome 1 using a subset of the progeny previously used to construct an RFLP map of M. grisea. The closest reported RFLP markers were 11.8 (estimated 260 kb) and 17.2 cM (estimated 380 kb) away and provide starting points on either side of the locus for a "chromosome walk" to clone the locus.