The spike glycoprotein (S) gene of IBV codes for a precursor protein which is cleaved into the N-terminal S1 and C-terminal S2 glycopolypeptides. The S1 glycopolypeptide, which induces neutralizing antibody, comprises approximately 520 amino acid residues. We have determined the nucleotide sequence of S1 of seven strains of the Massachusetts (Mass) serotype and the first 337 bases of two additional Mass strains. Despite the fact that the strains had been isolated over three decades in Europe and the U.S.A. there was only 4% base and 6% amino acid variation within the group. Nearly one third of the 32 amino acid differences in S1 were in two hypervariable regions (HVRs 1 and 2) comprising residues 38-51 and 99-115, identified by Niesters et al. (1986), showing that HVRs 1 and 2 are a feature of the Mass serotype. Amino acid variation within HVRs 1 and 2 was 29% and 40% respectively. Five vaccine strains could be distinguished from each other by sequencing of the first 337 nucleotides. Variants of M41 which resisted neutralization by two monoclonal antibodies (A13 and A38) had the same, single base change at position 134, resulting in substitution of proline residue 45 by histidine. This indicates that residues within HVR 1 are associated with epitopes which induce neutralizing antibody.