An HLA-A3-like supertype (minimally comprised of products from the HLA class I alleles A3, A11, A31, A*3301, and A*6801) has been defined on the basis of (a) structural similarities in the antigen-binding groove, (b) shared main anchor peptide-binding motifs, (c) the identification of peptides cross-reacting with most or all of these molecules, and (d) the definition of an A3-like supermotif that efficiently predicts highly cross-reactive peptides. Detailed secondary anchor maps for A3, A11, A31, A*3301, and A*6801 are also described. The biologic relevance of the A3-like supertype is indicated by the fact that high frequencies of the A3-like supertype alleles are conserved in all major ethnic groups. Because A3-like supertype alleles are found in most major HLA evolutionary lineages, possibly a reflection of common ancestry, the A3-like supermotif might in fact represent a primeval human HLA class I peptide-binding specificity. It is also possible that these phenomena might be related to optimal exploitation of the peptide specificity by human TAP molecules. The grouping of HLA alleles into supertypes on the basis of their overlapping peptide-binding repertoires represents an alternative to serologic or phylogenetic classification.