All the physical linkage groups constituting the genome of Leishmania infantum have been identified for the first time by hybridization of specific DNA probes to pulsed field gradient-separated chromosomes. The numerous co-migrating chromosomes were individualised using the distinctive size polymorphisms which occur among strains of the L. infantum/L. donovani complex as a tool. A total of 244 probes, consisting of 41 known genes, 66 expressed sequence tags (ESTs) and 137 anonymous DNA sequences, were assigned to a specific linkage group. We show that this genome comprises 36 chromosomes ranging in size from 0.35 to -3 Mb. This information enabled us to compare the genome structure of L. infantum with those of the three other main Leishmania species that infect man in the Old World, L. major, L. tropica and L. aethiopica. The linkage groups were consistently conserved in all species examined. This result is in striking contrast to the large genetic distances that separate these species and suggests that conservation of the chromosome structure may be critical for this human pathogen. Finally, the high density of markers obtained during the present study (with a mean of 1 marker/130 kb) will speed up the construction of a detailed physical map that would facilitate the genetic analysis of this parasite, for which no classical genetics is available.