The genes (emm) encoding M proteins, from isolates of group-A streptococci (GAS) serotyped as M52, M53, M80 and M nontypeable (MNT; serologically related to M53 and M80), were examined. Characterization of emm from these GAS revealed some discrepancies with serotyping, illustrating the difficulty in serotype determination when cross-reactions occur. DNA sequences corresponding to the N-terminal region of M proteins from the isolates showed considerable similarity both in the hypervariable region and the repeat regions. We propose that these serotypes form a family of closely related M types. Frameshift mutations in the hypervariable region followed by a corrective (compensatory) frameshift were observed. This may be an effective mechanism for generating antigenic diversity in the M protein.