The evolution of gene families can be best understood by studying the modern organization and functions of family members, and by comparing parallel families in different species. In this study, the CYP2ABFGST gene cluster has been characterized in rat and compared to the syntenic clusters in mouse and human, providing an interesting example of gene family evolution. In the rat, 18 loci from six subfamilies have been identified by specifically amplifying and sequencing gene fragments from cloned DNA, and have been exactly placed on chromosome 1. The overall organization of the gene cluster in rat is relatively simple, with genes from each subfamily in tandem, and is more similar to the mouse than to the human cluster. We have reconstructed the probable structure of the CYP2ABFGST cluster in the common ancestor of primates and rodents, and inferred a model of the evolution of this gene cluster in the three species. Numerous nontandem and block duplications, inversions, and translocations have occurred entirely inside the cluster, indicating that pairing between duplicate genes is keeping the rearrangements within the cluster region. The initial tandem duplication of a CYP2 gene in an early mammalian ancestor has made this region particularly subject to such localized rearrangements. Even if duplicated genes do not have a large-scale effect on chromosomal rearrangements, on a local level clustered gene families may have contributed significantly to the genomic complexity of modern mammals.