To investigate DNA variation in natural plant populations, a 1.8-kb region of the acidic chitinase locus (ChiA)was analyzed for 17 ecotypes of Arabidopsis thaliana sampled worldwide and 3 Arabis species in Japan. As in the Adh region, dimorphism was detected throughout the investigated ChiA region, suggesting the possibility that dimorphic DNA variation exists in the entire nuclear genome of A. thaliana. The ChiA region was divided into two blocks by an intragenic recombination between two parental sequence types, which diverged 7.4 MYA under the assumption that nucleotide mutation rate per site per year is mu = 10(-9). Nucleotide diversity in the entire ChiA region was 0.0104. Tajima's test was significantly negative for both nucleotide and indel variations, which was manifested as an excess of unique polymorphisms. However, the level and pattern of polymorphism in the ChiA region were inconsistent with simple theoretical explanations. The HKA test detected no difference in the levels of intra- and interspecific variations between the ChiA and Adh regions. In the ChiA coding region, no difference in the patterns of synonymous and replacement variation was found in intra- and interspecific comparisons by the MK test. Although it was difficult to determine the exact genetic mechanism acting on the ChA locus, these results suggested that the ChA locus region was under the same genetic mechanism before and after the establishment of A. thaliana as a species.