The genomic organisation of the Ty1-copia retrotransposons in rye (Secale cereale) has been studied. We have used the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify sequences from a conserved domain of the reverse transcriptase gene of the Ty1-copia retrotransposons in this species. Sequence analysis of 26 of these PCR products shows them to be a highly heterogeneous population, a feature that is common in plants. Slot blot analysis shows that there are about 100,000 individual Ty1-copia retrotransposons in rye. In situ hybridization of a heterogeneous probe, representing the whole population of rye Ty1-copia retrotransposon sequences, to chromosome spreads of triticale (xTriticosecale), a rye-wheat hybrid, shows that these sequences are present throughout all the rye chromosomes but absent from the centromeric regions and, in particular, from the terminal heterochromatin. Southern analysis of oat, barley, wheat, and rye, using as a probe R9, one of the rye sequences that is closely similar to the BARE-1 element of barley, shows that close relatives of this retrotransposon subgroup are present in all these species in high copy number. Northern analysis on RNAs from seedlings shows that the BARE-1 subgroup is transcribed in all these cereal plants but in variable amounts: high in barley, moderate in wheat and rye, and extremely low in oat.