Unlike mammalian genomes, cereal (Gramineae) genomes exhibit little suppression of CpG dinucleotides. In cereal genomes, however, most of the numerous potential recognition sites for CpG methylation-sensitive restriction enzymes are methylated. Analysis of cereal genomic libraries and of regions flanking genes indicates that unmethylated NotI sites are useful landmarks for regions containing genes/single-copy sequences. Studies of a rye chromosome arm indicate that its pericentromeric region has a reduced density of unmethylated NotI (and MluI) sites and therefore of genes. Unmethylated MluI and NruI sites are distributed nonrandomly in the genomes of wheat, barley, and rice. Analysis of the genomic blocks defined by these sites in wheat and barley indicates that they are most likely to have arisen by amplification. These observations form the basis of a proposed model for the organization and evolution of the wheat, barley, and rice genomes.