The phylogenetic interrelationships of members of the genus Leuconostoc and some heterofermentative lactobacilli, which phenotypically resemble leuconostocs, were investigated by comparative analysis of their 16 S rRNA sequences. The six species, Leuconostoc mesenteroides, Leu. carnosum, Leu. citreum, Leu. gelidum, Leu. lactis and Leu. pseudomesenteroides exhibited a high degree of sequence similarity with each other and formed a phylogenetically coherent group, quite separate from all other lactic acid bacteria investigated. The species Leu. paramesenteroides was found to be phylogenetically distinct from the Leu. mesenteroides group of species and formed a natural grouping with the heterofermentative lactobacilli, Lb. confusus, Lb. kandleri, Lb. minor and Lb. viridescens. The rRNA sequence of the acidophilic species, Leu. oenos, displayed exceptionally low levels of homology with all of the other taxa examined. The 16 S sequence of Leu. oenos showed major nucleotide differences in relatively highly conserved positions of the molecule indicating this species is phylogenetically distinct and warrants a separate genus.