The nature of somaclonal variation at the nucleotide sequence level was studied in rice cv. Nipponbare. First, we investigated genomic variations by using 2 molecular marker systems: RAPD (random amplified polymorphic DNA) and ISSR (inter-simple sequence repeat). This was followed by sequencing of selected bands that represented genomic variations, and pairwise sequence analysis taking advantage of the whole genome sequence of rice. In addition, transpositional activity of the active MITE, mPing, was analysed by locus-specific PCR amplifications. The 2-year-old calli and their regenerated plants, analysed with 24 RAPD and 20 ISSR primers, showed moderate levels of genomic variation (20.83% and 17.04%, respectively). To test whether DNA methylation plays a role in somaclonal variation, the calli were treated with 5-azacytidine, a chemical agent that reduces cytosine methylation by blocking the activity of DNA methyltransferase. Though dwarfism occurred in regenerants from treated calli (a hallmark of the drug treatment), there was only a slight increase in the frequency of somaclonal variation detected in the treated calli and their regenerated plants relative to untreated controls. The transposon mPing also remained immobile in both treated and untreated calli. Nevertheless, dendrograms constructed according to the Jaccard coefficient calculated by UPGMA of the ISSR bands revealed that the 5-azacytidine-treated and untreated somaclones were grouped into 2 distinct clusters, suggesting a possible indirect effect of the treatment on the genomic changes, depending on the marker used. Sequence analysis indicated a low level of variation (0.31%), with single-base-pair substitutions predominating.