X and Y sex chromosomes from the dioecious plant Silene latifolia (white campion) were isolated from mitotic metaphase chromosome preparations on polyester membranes. Autosomes were ablated using an argon ion laser microbeam and isolated sex chromosomes were then recovered on excised fragments of polyester membrane. Sex chromosome associated DNA sequences were amplified using the degenerate oligonucleotide primed polymerase chain reaction (DOP-PCR) and pools of DOP-PCR products were used to investigate the genomic organization of the S. latifolia sex chromosomes. The chromosomal locations of cloned sex chromosome repeat sequences were analysed by fluorescence in situ hybridization and data complementary to laser ablation studies were obtained by genomic in situ hybridization. In combination, these studies demonstrate that the X and Y sex chromosomes of S. latifolia are of very similar DNA composition and also that they share a significant repetitive DNA content with the autosomes. The evolution of sex chromosomes in Silene is discussed and compared with that in another dioecious species, Rumex acetosa.