Dinucleotide microsatellites have been characterized and used as genetic markers in rice. Screening of a rice genomic library with poly(dG-dA).(dC-dT) and poly(dG-dT).(dC-dA) probes indicated that (GA)n repeats occurred, on average, once every 225 kb and (GT)n repeats once every 480 kb. DNA sequencing of ten randomly selected microsatellites indicated that the numbers of repeats ranged from 12 to 34 and that the patterns of microsatellites in rice were similar to those of humans and other mammals. Primers to these microsatellite loci as well as to four published microsatellite-containing sequences have been designed and degrees of polymorphism has been examined with 20 rice accessions. Multiple alleles, ranging from 5 to 11, have been observed at all the microsatellite loci in 20 rice accessions. Alleles specific to two cultivated subspecies, indica and japonica, were found in some microsatellite loci. Heterozygosity values of all the microsatellite markers were significantly higher than those of RFLP markers, based upon a parallel comparison. Ten microsatellite loci have been genetically mapped to four rice chromosomes. The genomic distribution of microsatellites appears to be random in rice.