In this, the first of three papers, we present the sequence of the ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes of Drosophila melanogaster. The gene regions of D. melanogaster rDNA encode four individual rRNAs 18S (1,995 nt), 5.8S (123 nt), 2S (30 nt), and 28S (3,945 nt). The ribosomal DNA (rDNA) repeat of D. melanogaster is AT rich (65.9% overall), with the spacers being particularly AT rich. Analysis of DNA simplicity reveals that, in contrast to the intergenic spacer (IGS) and the external transcribed spacer (ETS), most of the rRNA gene regions have been refractory to the action of slippage-like events, with the exception of the 28S rRNA gene expansion segments. It would seem that the 28S rRNA can accommodate the products of slippage-like events without loss of activity. In the following two papers we analyze the effects of sequence divergence on the evolution of (1) the 28S gene "expansion segments" and (2) the 28S and 18S rRNA secondary structures among eukaryotic species, respectively. Our detailed analyses reveal, in addition to unequal crossing-over, (1) the involvement of slippage and biased mutation in the evolution of the rDNA multigene family and (2) the molecular coevolution of both expansion segments and the nucleotides involved with compensatory changes required to maintain secondary structures of RNA.