Evidence of associations between free-living amoebas and human disease has been increasing in recent years. Knowledge about phylogenetic relationships that may be important for the understanding of pathogenicity in the genera involved is very limited at present. Consequently, we have begun to study these relationships and report here on the phylogeny of Hartmannella vermiformis, a free-living amoeba that can harbor the etiologic agent of Legionnaires' disease. Our analysis is based on studies of small-subunit ribosomal RNA genes (srDNA). Nucleotide sequences were determined for nuclear srDNA from three strains of H. vermiformis isolated from the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States. These sequences then were compared with a sequence previously obtained for a North American isolate by J. H. Gunderson and M. L. Sogin. The four genes are 1,840 bp long, with an average GC content of 49.6%. Sequence differences among the strains range are 0.38%-0.76%. Variation occurs at 19 positions and includes 2 single-base indels plus 14 monotypic and 3 ditypic single-base substitutions. Variation is limited to eight helix/loop structures according to a current model for srRNA secondary structure. Parsimony, distance, and bootstrap analyses used to examine phylogenetic relationships between the srDNA sequences of H. vermiformis and other eukaryotes indicated that Hartmannella sequences were most closely related to those of Acanthamoeba and the alga Cryptomonas. All ditypic sites were consistent with a separation between European and North American strains of Hartmannella, but results of other tests of this relationship were statistically inconclusive.