The genetics of arsenic tolerance in plants has not been extensively studied and no arsenic tolerance gene has been genetically mapped. Screening 20 diverse genotypes of rice for reduced root growth in 13.3 μM arsenate identified marked differences in tolerance. The most sensitive variety, Dawn, is known to be highly susceptible to straighthead, a condition linked to arsenic contamination of soil. Screening 108 recombinant inbred lines of the Bala x Azucena mapping population revealed the presence of a major gene, AsTol, which mapped between markers RZ516 and RG213 on chromosome 6. This gene is a good target for further characterisation. It should prove valuable for investigations into the physiological and molecular mechanism behind arsenic tolerance in plants and may lead to strategies aimed at breeding for arsenic contaminated regions. © New Phytologist (2004).