Analysis of the lesions in several drug-resistant DNA polymerase mutants of herpes simplex virus along with comparative analysis of the published polymerase sequences of other human herpesviruses has shown that most lesions (five out of six) are substitutions at amino acid residues conserved in all four polymerases. Furthermore, the majority of lesions are in regions of the polypeptide where there are marked clusterings of conserved residues. On the basis of these data we have identified several domains within the polypeptide which we believe may have important functional roles in the action of the enzyme. The apparent restriction in the potential sites of lesions conferring drug resistance may explain the difficulty in selecting such mutants using acyclovir (ACV) in culture and their failure to emerge so far during ACV therapy. Extension of the comparative analysis to the polymerases of adenovirus type 2, vaccinia virus and phage phi 29 suggests that these enzymes also possess domains homologous to those most conserved in the herpes polymerases (regions I-III) and that these domains have a similar linear spatial distribution on the polypeptides. The results are discussed in relation to the known function of the DNA polymerases.