The epidemiology of malaria in Africa is complicated by the fact that its principal vector, the mosquito Anopheles gambiae, constitutes a complex of six sibling species. Each species is characterized by a unique array of paracentric inversions, as deduced by karyotypic analysis. In addition, most of the species carry a number of polymorphic inversions. In order to develop an understanding of the evolutionary histories of different parts of the genome, we compared the genetic variation of areas inside and outside inversions in two distinct inversion karyotypes of A. gambiae. Thirty-five cDNA clones were mapped on the five arms of the A. gambiae chromosomes with divisional probes. Sixteen of these clones, localized both inside and outside inversions of chromosome 2, were used as probes in order to determine the nucleotide diversity of different parts of the genome in the two inversion karyotypes. We observed that the sequence diversity inside the inversion is more than three-fold lower than in areas outside the inversion and that the degree of divergence increases gradually at loci at increasing distance from the inversion. To interpret the data we present a selectionist and a stochastic model, both of which point to a relatively recent origin of the studied inversion and may suggest differences between the evolutionary history of inversions in Anopheles and Drosophila species.