A general protein sequence alignment methodology for detecting a priori unknown common structural and functional regions is described. The method proposed in this paper is based on two basic requirements for a meaningful alignment. First, each sequence or segment of a sequence is characterized by a multivariate physicochemical profile. Second, the alignment is performed by considering all the sequences simultaneously, and the algorithm detects those regions that form a set of similar profiles. In order to test the structural meaning of the alignment obtained from the sequences, quantitative comparisons are performed with structurally conserved regions (SCR) determined from the X-ray structures of three serine proteases. Results suggest that the limits of the SCR may be predicted from the similarities between the physicochemical profiles of the sequences. The procedures are not completely automated. The final step requires a visual screening of alternative pathways in order to determine an optimal alignment.