A large number of polymorphic simple sequence repeats (SSRs) or microsatellites are needed to develop a genetic map for shrimp. However, developing an SSR map is very time-consuming, expensive, and most SSRs are not specifically linked to gene loci of immediate interest. We report here on our strategy to develop polymorphic markers using expressed sequence tags (ESTs) by designing primers flanking single or multiple SSRs with three or more repeats. A subtracted cDNA library was prepared using RNA from specific pathogen-free (SPF) Litopenaeus vannamei juveniles (∼1 g) collected before (0) and after (48 h) inoculation with the China isolate of white spot syndrome virus (WSSV). A total of 224 clones were sequenced, 194 of which were useful for homology comparisons against annotated genes in NCBI nonredundant (nr) and protein databases, providing 179 sequences encoded by nuclear DNA, 4 mitochondrial DNA, and 11 were similar to portions of WSSV genome. The nuclear sequences clustered in 43 groups, 11 of which were homologous to various ESTs of unknown function, 4 had no homology to any sequence, and 28 showed similarities to known genes of invertebrates and vertebrates, representatives of cellular metabolic processes such as calcium ion balance, cytoskeleton mRNAs, and protein synthesis. A few sequences were homologous to immune system-related (allergens) genes and two were similar to motifs of the sex-lethal gene of Drosophila. A large number of EST sequences were similar to domains of the EF-hand superfamily (Ca2 binding motif and FRQ protein domain of myosin light chains). Single or multiple SSRs with three or more repeats were found in approximately 61% of the 179 nuclear sequences. Primer sets were designed from 28 sequences representing 19 known or putative genes and tested for polymorphism (EST-SSR marker) in a small test panel containing 16 individuals. Ten (53%) of the 19 putative or unknown function genes were polymorphic, 4 monomorphic, and 3 either failed to satisfactorily amplify genomic DNA or the allele amplification conditions need to be further optimized. Five polymorphic ESTs were genotyped with the entire reference mapping family, two of them (actin, accession #CX535973 and shrimp allergen arginine kinase, accession #CX535999) did not amplify with all offspring of the IRMF panel suggesting presence of null alleles, and three of them amplified in most of the IRMF offspring and were used for linkage analysis. EF-hand motif of myosin light chain (accession #CX535935) was placed in ShrimpMap's linkage group 7, whereas ribosomal protein S5 (accession #CX535957) and troponin I (accession #CX535976) remained unassigned. Results indicate that (a) a large number of ESTs isolated from this cDNA library are similar to cytoskeleton mRNAs and may reflect a normal pathway of the cellular response after im infection with WSSV, and (b) primers flanking single or multiple SSRs with three or more repeats from shrimp ESTs could be an efficient approach to develop polymorphic markers useful for linkage mapping. Work is underway to map additional SSR-containing ESTs from this and other cDNA libraries as a plausible strategy to increase marker density in ShrimpMap.