Amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) analysis has been used to characterize 15 root-knot nematode populations belonging to the three parthenogenetic species Meloidogyne arenaria, M. incognita and M. javanica. Sixteen primer combinations were used to generate AFLP patterns, with a total number of amplified fragments ranging from 872 to 1087, depending on the population tested. Two kinds of polymorphic DNA fragments could be distinguished: bands amplified in a single genotype, and bands polymorphic between genotypes (i.e. amplified in not all but at least two genotypes). Based on presence/absence of amplified bands and pairwise similarity values, all the populations tested were clustered according to their specific status. Significant intraspecific variation was revealed by AFLP, with DNA fragments polymorphic among populations within each of the three species tested. M. arenaria appeared as the most variable species, while M. javanica was the least polymorphic. Within each specific cluster, no general correlation could be found between genomic similarity and geographical origin of the populations. The results reported here showed the ability of the AFLP procedure to generate markers useful for genetic analysis in root-knot nematodes.