Based on pattern searches and systematic database screening, almost 650 different ankyrin-like (ANK) repeats from nearly all phyla have been identified; more than 150 of them are reported here for the first time. Their presence in functionally diverse proteins such as enzymes, toxins, and transcription factors strongly suggests domain shuffling, but their occurrence in prokaryotes and yeast excludes exon shuffling. The spreading mechanism remains unknown, but in at least three cases horizontal gene transfer appears to be involved. ANK repeats occur in at least four consecutive copies. The terminal repeats are more variable in sequence. One feature of the internal repeats is a predicted central hydrophobic alpha-helix, which is likely to interact with other repeats. The functions of the ankyrin-like repeats are compatible with a role in protein-protein interactions.