A novel family of antifungal peptides was discovered in the wheat Triticum kiharae Dorof. et Migusch. Two members of the family, designated Tk-AMP-X1 and Tk-AMP-X2, were completely sequenced and shown to belong to the α-hairpinin structural family of plant peptides with a characteristic C1XXXC2-X(n)-C3XXXC4 motif. The peptides inhibit the spore germination of several fungal pathogens in vitro. cDNA and gene cloning disclosed unique structure of genes encoding Tk-AMP-X peptides. They code for precursor proteins of unusual multimodular structure, consisting of a signal peptide, several α-hairpinin (4-Cys) peptide domains with a characteristic cysteine pattern separated by linkers and a C-terminal prodomain. Three types of precursor proteins, with five, six or seven 4-Cys peptide modules, were found in wheat. Among the predicted family members, several peptides previously isolated from T. kiharae seeds were identified. Genes encoding Tk-AMP-X precursors have no introns in the protein-coding regions and are upregulated by fungal pathogens and abiotic stress, providing conclusive evidence for their role in stress response. A combined PCR-based and bioinformatics approach was used to search for related genes in the plant kingdom. Homologous genes differing in the number of peptide modules were discovered in phylogenetically-related Triticum and Aegilops species, including polyploid wheat genome donors. Association of the Tk-AMP-X genes with A, B/G or D genomes of hexaploid wheat was demonstrated. Furthermore, Tk-AMP-X-related sequences were shown to be widespread in the Poaceae family among economically important crops, such as barley, rice and maize.