Recent progress in sequencing the genomes of several Leishmania species, causative agents of cutaneous, mucocutaneous and visceral leishmaniasis, is revealing unusual features of potential relevance to parasite virulence and pathogenesis in the host. While the genomes of Leishmania major, Leishmania braziliensis and Leishmania infantum are highly similar in content and organisation, species-specific genes and mechanisms distinguish one from another. In particular, the presence of retrotransposons and the components of a putative RNA interference machinery in L. braziliensis suggest the potential for both greater diversity and more tractable experimentation in this Leishmania Viannia species. (c) 2007 Australian society for Parasitology Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.