We report the cloning and characterisation of genes encoding expansin-like proteins from the pine wood nematodes, Bursaphelenchus xylophilus and B. mucronatus. A small family of genes is present in both species and the Bursaphelenchus genes are most similar to expansins and expansin-like proteins from the potato cyst nematode Globodera rostochiensis and root-knot nematodes. Molecular modelling suggests that the genes could encode a protein with a structure similar to that of functionally characterised expansins. Expression analysis showed that the Bursaphelenchus expansin-like genes are expressed solely in the pharyngeal gland cells, implying a role in the host-parasite interaction, most likely in assisting migration through the plant. Some G. rostochiensis and root-knot nematode expansins are composed of a carbohydrate-binding domain coupled to an expansin domain but no carbohydrate binding domain is present on any of the Bursaphelenchus sequences. We suggest a model for evolution of the expansin gene family within the plant-parasitic nematodes of the Tylenchida and Aphelenchida.