Chalcone synthase-encoding genes (chs) in Petunia hybrida comprise a multigene family. Some of the chs genes have been grouped into a subfamily, based upon their strong cross-hybridization and tight genomic linkage. From genomic libraries eight 'complete' chs genes, two chs gene 5'-fragments and two chs gene 3'-fragments have been isolated. The nucleotide sequence of six complete chs genes is presented and discussed in relation to their evolutionary origin and expression in different tissues. Each member of the family consists of two exons separated by an intron of variable size and sequence, which is located at a conserved position. The chs gene fragments represent single exons. Homology between non-linked chs genes is approx. 80% at the DNA level and restricted to protein-coding sequences. Homology between subfamily members (which are tightly linked) is higher (90-99%) and extends into untranslated regions of the gene, strengthening the view that they arose by recent gene duplications. The chsD gene contains a mutated translation stop codon, suggesting that this is an inactive (pseudo)gene. None of the other members of the gene family exhibits characteristics of a pseudogene, indicating that if gene inactivation has occurred during their evolution, it must characteristics of a pseudogene, indicating that if gene inactivation has occurred during their evolution, it must have been a recent event. Homology at the protein level between some (expressed) chs genes is surprisingly low. The possibility that these genes encode proteins with slightly different enzymatic activities is discussed.