Previous DNA relatedness and enzyme electrophoretic mobility studies indicated heterogeneity among strains of Legionella pneumophila serogroups 1, 4, 5, and Lansing 3 (a new, as yet unnumbered serogroup). In this study 60 L. pneumophila strains were studied by DNA hybridization (hydroxyapatite method) to assess their genomic relatedness. These strains were also studied biochemically and serologically to determine whether they formed one or more phenotypic groups. DNA relatedness studies identified three groups. DNA group 1 contained the type strain Philadelphia 1 and strains from serogroups 1 through 14 of L. pneumophila. The average relatedness of DNA group 1 strains was 88% at 60 degrees C with 1.1% divergence in related sequences and 85% at 75 degrees C. DNA group 2 contained strain Los Angeles 1, the reference strain of serogroup 4, and strains of serogroups 1, 4, 5, and Lansing 3, an unnumbered serogroup. Average relatedness of DNA group 2 strains was 84% at 60 degrees C with 0.7% divergence and 87% at 75 degrees C. Reciprocal relatedness of DNA groups 1 and 2 was approximately 67% at 60 degrees C with 6.0% divergence and 48% at 75 degrees C. DNA group 3 strains were in serogroup 5. They were 98% related at 60 degrees C with 0.5% divergence and 97% related at 75 degrees C. Reciprocal relatedness of DNA group 3 and DNA group 1 was approximately 74% at 60 degrees C with 5.3% divergence and 43% at 75 degrees C, and reciprocal relatedness of DNA groups 3 and 2 was 66% at 60 degrees C with 5.7% divergence and 55% at 75 degrees C. The DNA groups could not be separated biochemically or serologically or by cell wall fatty acid and isoprenoid quinone composition. Three subspecies of L. pneumophila are proposed to accommodate the three DNA groups: L. pneumophila subsp. pneumophila subsp. nov. for DNA group 1, L. pneumophila subsp. fraseri subsp. nov. for DNA group 2, and pneumophila subsp. pascullei subsp. nov. for DNA group 3.