The structures of tomato bushy stunt virus, southern bean mosaic virus and satellite tobacco necrosis virus have been compared quantitatively. The organization of the shell domains of tomato bushy stunt virus and southern bean mosaic virus within the icosahedral envelope is identical. The wedge-shaped end of the subunit is closer to the fivefold or quasi-sixfold axes in all three viruses but the packing about the three- and twofold axes is quite different in satellite tobacco necrosis virus as compared to tomato bushy stunt virus or southern bean mosaic virus. The polypeptide folds of these viruses have greatest similarity in the beta-sheet region of the eight-stranded anti-parallel beta-barrel. The largest differences occur in the connecting segments. There is no clear indication of homologous amino acid sequences between southern bean mosaic virus and satellite tobacco necrosis virus. However, there is some conservation of the following functional groups. (1) Threonines and serines at the hexagonal-pentagonal wedge-shaped end of the subunit. (2) Lysines and arginines at the protein-RNA interface. (3) Hydrophobic residues in the cavity within the anti-parallel beta-barrel. (4) An aspartic acid near a site which binds Ca in tomato bushy stunt virus. (5) Ionic interactions in the contacts between fivefold-related subunits. These virus coat protein structures are not as similar to each other as the alpha and beta chains of hemoglobin but have greater likeness to one another than the NAD-binding domains of dehydrogenases or lysozymes from hen egg-white and T4 phage. The surface domains of tomato bushy stunt virus and southern bean mosaic virus are more like each other than like satellite tobacco necrosis virus. A divergent evolutionary tree is proposed on the basis of these observations.