Ascorbate peroxidases are haem proteins that efficiently scavenge H2O2 in the cytosol and chloroplasts of plants. Database analyses retrieved 52 expressed sequence tags coding for Arabidopsis thaliana ascorbate peroxidases. Complete sequencing of non-redundant clones revealed three novel types in addition to the two cytosol types described previously in Arabidopsis. Analysis of sequence data available for all plant ascorbate peroxidases resulted in the following classification: two types of cytosol soluble ascorbate peroxidase designated cs1 and cs2; three types of cytosol membrane-bound ascorbate peroxidase, namely cm1, bound to microbodies via a C-terminal membrane-spanning segment, and cm2 and cm3, both of unknown location; two types of chloroplast ascorbate peroxidase with N-terminal transit sequences, the stromal ascorbate peroxidase (chs), and the thylakoid-bound ascorbate peroxidase showing a C-terminal transmembrane segment and designated cht. Further comparison of the patterns of conserved residues and the crystal structure of pea ascorbate peroxidase showed that active site residues are conserved, and three peptide segments implicated in interaction with reducing substrate are similar, excepting cm2 and cm3 types. A change of Phe-175 in cytosol types to Trp-175 in chloroplast types might explain the greater ascorbate specificity of chloroplast compared with cytosol ascorbate peroxidases. Residues involved in homodimeric subunit interaction are conserved only in cs1, cs2 and cm1 types. The proximal cation (K+)-binding site observed in pea ascorbate peroxidase seems to be conserved. In addition, cm1, cm2, cm3, chs and cht ascorbate peroxidases contain Asp-43, Asn-57 and Ser-59, indicative of a distal monovalent cation site. The data support the hypothesis that present-day peroxidases evolved by an early gene duplication event.