The complexity of the life cycle of the protozoan malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum has hindered genetic analysis; even the number of chromosomes in P. falciparum is uncertain. The blood stages of rodent malaria parasites are haploid and hybridization with cloned complementary DNAs similarly suggests a haploid genome in P. falciparum blood stages (ref. 4 and our unpublished results). A novel approach to karyoptic and linkage analysis in P. falciparum has been provided recently by the technique of pulsed-field gradient (PFG) gel electrophoresis, which allows the fractionation of DNA molecules of 30-3,000 kilobases (kb), a range including the sizes of intact chromosomal DNA molecules from eukaryotes such as yeast and trypanosomatids. We describe here the fractionation by PFG electrophoresis of chromosomal DNA molecules from P. falciparum into at least seven discrete species which vary in size by up to 20% between different isolates. Several genes for P. faciparum antigens which contain repetitive sequences are located on different chromosomes. Surprisingly, two of the chromosomes seem to contain the same sequences.