A new group of serotype F bacteriophages of Staphylococcus aureus has been found which mediates the simultaneous triple-lysogenic conversion of enterotoxin A, staphylokinase and beta-lysin. The phages were recovered fro methicillin-resistant strains of S. aureus isolated in Irish hospitals between 1971 and 1988 and from strain PS42-D, which has been used as the propagating strain for the S. aureus typing phage 42D since before 1965. The molecular mechanism of triple conversion mediated by three of these phages was determined by molecular cloning, restriction endonuclease site mapping and hybridization analysis, and compared with the mechanism of beta-lysin and staphylokinase conversion mediated by the serotype F, double-converting phase phi 13. THe genetic determinants mediating expression of enterotoxin A (entA) and staphylokinase (sak) were cloned from the DNA of the triple-converting phage and expression of the cloned determinants detected in Escherichia coli and S. aureus. The entA and sak determinants were closely linked in the phage DNA adjacent to the phage attachment site (attP) in each case and furthermore, the sak determinant of phage phi 13 was also located near its attP. The restriction maps of the entA-, sak- and attP-containing DNA regions of the three triple-converting phages were very similar to each other and to the corresponding sak- and attP- containing DNA region of phage phi 13. Hybridization analysis using a cloned beta-lysin determinant (hlb) and cloned attP-containing DNA fragments as probes demonstrated that beta-lysin conversion mediated by the triple-converting phages and phage phi 13 was caused by insertional inactivation of the chromosomally encoded hlb determinant by orientation-specific integration of phage DNA following lysogenization.