Background: Tolerance to complete submergence is recognized in a limited number of Asian rice (Oryza sativa L.) varieties, most of which contain submergence-inducible SUB1A on the polygenic SUBMERGENCE-1 (SUB1) locus. It has been shown that the SUB1 locus encodes two Ethylene-Responsive Factor (ERF) genes, SUB1B and SUB1C, in all O. sativa varieties. These genes were also found in O rufipogon and O nivara, wild relatives of O. sativa. However, detailed analysis of the polygenic locus in other Oryza species has not yet been made. Findings: Chromosomal location, phylogenetic, and gene structure analyses have revealed that the SUB1 locus is conserved in the long arm of chromosome 9 in most Oryza species. We also show that the SUB1A-like gene of O. nivara is on chromosome 1 and that Leersia perrieri, a grass-tolerant to deep-flooding, presents three ERF genes in the SUB1 locus. Conclusion: We provide here a deeper insight into the evolutionary origin and variation of the SUB1 locus and raise the possibility that an association of these genes with flooding tolerance in L. perrieri may exist.