In an analysis of the genomic variation of AIDS retroviral isolates from patients living in New York, Alabama, and Zaire, restriction maps were constructed by using seven enzymes, each known to cleave the proviral DNA more than once, in conjunction with Southern blot analysis. The maps of LAV, HTLV-III, and ARV-2 as deduced from their published nucleotide sequences were included in this analysis. The results demonstrated that (i) several "signature" restriction sites were common to all isolates; (ii) with the exception of LAV and HTLV-III, the North American and European isolates were all different from one another and showed no geographical specificity; (iii) the African isolates as a group were more diverse than those from North America and Europe; and (iv) the genomic variability was concentrated within the env gene.