The RNA polymerases encoded by bacteriophages T3 and T7 have similar structures, but exhibit nearly exclusive template specificities. We have determined the nucleotide sequence of the region of T3 DNA that encodes the T3 RNA polymerase (the gene 1.0 region), and have compared this sequence with the corresponding region of T7 DNA. The predicted amino acid sequence of the T3 RNA polymerase exhibits very few changes when compared to the T7 enzyme (82% of the residues are identical). Significant differences appear to cluster in three distinct regions in the amino-terminal half of the protein. Analysis of the data from both enzymes suggests features that may be important for polymerase function. In particular, a region that differs between the T3 and T7 enzymes exhibits significant homology to the bi-helical domain that is common to many sequence-specific DNA binding proteins. The region that flanks the structural gene contains a number of regulatory elements including: a promoter for the E. coli RNA polymerase, a potential processing site for RNase III and a promoter for the T3 polymerase. The promoter for the T3 RNA polymerase is located only 12 base pairs distal to the stop codon for the structural gene.