The complete nucleotide sequence of the genome of the circular single-stranded DNA (isometric) phage alpha 3 has been determined and compared with that of the related phages phi X174 and G4. The alpha 3 genome consists of 6087 nucleotides, which is 701 nucleotides longer than the nucleotide sequence of the phi X174 genome and 510 nucleotides more than that of the G4 genome. The results demonstrated that the three phage species have 11 homologous genes (A, A*, B, C, K, D, E, J, F, G and H), the order of which is fundamentally identical, suggesting that they have evolved from a common ancestor. The sequence of some genes and untranslated intergenic regions, however, differs significantly from phage to phage: for example, the degree of amino acid sequence homology of the gene product is averaged at 47.7% between alpha 3 and phi X174 and 46.9% between alpha 3 and G4, and alpha 3 has a remarkable longer intergenic region composed of 758 nucleotides between the genes H and A compared with the counterparts of phi X174 and G4. Meanwhile, in vivo experiments of genetic complementation showed that alpha 3 can use none of the gene products of phi X174 and G4, whereas the related phage phi K can rescue alpha 3 nonsense mutants of the genes B, C, D and J. These sequencing and in vivo rescue results indicated that alpha 3 is closely related to phi K, but distantly remote from phi X174 or G4, and supported an evolutional hypothesis which has been so far proposed that the isometric phages are classified into three main groups: the generic representatives are phi X174, G4 and alpha 3.