BACKGROUND: Plant resistance genes (R genes) exist in large families and usually contain both a nucleotide-binding site domain and a leucine-rich repeat domain, denoted NBS-LRR. The genome sequence of cassava (Manihot esculenta) is a valuable resource for analysing the genomic organization of resistance genes in this crop. RESULTS: With searches for Pfam domains and manual curation of the cassava gene annotations, we identified 228 NBS-LRR type genes and 99 partial NBS genes. These represent almost 1% of the total predicted genes and show high sequence similarity to proteins from other plant species. Furthermore, 34 contained an N-terminal toll/interleukin (TIR)-like domain, and 128 contained an N-terminal coiled-coil (CC) domain. 63% of the 327 R genes occurred in 39 clusters on the chromosomes. These clusters are mostly homogeneous, containing NBS-LRRs derived from a recent common ancestor. CONCLUSIONS: This study provides insight into the evolution of NBS-LRR genes in the cassava genome; the phylogenetic and mapping information may aid efforts to further characterize the function of these predicted R genes.