Homoeobox-containing genes control cell identities in particular spatial domains, cell lineages, or cell types during the development of Drosophila and Caenorhabditis elegans, and they probably control similar processes in vertebrates. More than 80 genes with homoeoboxes that have sequence similarities ranging from 25 to 100% have been isolated by genetic means or by DNA hybridization to previously isolated genes. We synthesized 500-2,000-fold degenerate oligonucleotides corresponding to a set of well-conserved eight amino acid sequences from the helix-3 region of the homoeodomain. We screened C. elegans genomic libraries with these probes and identified 49 putative homoeobox-containing loci. DNA sequencing confirmed that eight out of ten selected loci had sequences corresponding to the conserved helix-3 region plus additional flanking sequence similarity. One of these genes contained a sequence corresponding to a complete pou-domain and another was closely related to the homoeobox-containing genes caudal/cdx-1. The putative homoeobox loci were mapped to the physical contig map of C. elegans, allowing the identification of potentially corresponding genes from the correlated genetic map. We estimate that the number of homoeobox-containing genes in C. elegans is at least 60, constituting approximately 1% of the estimated total number of genes.