We analyzed, by restriction endonuclease mapping and electron microscopy, the genome of the lytic Rhodopseudomonas sphaeroides-specific bacteriophage RS1 and characterized it as a linear molecule of approximately 60 to 65 kilobases. When the DNA from purified phage particles was examined by several independent methods, considerable size heterogeneity was apparent in the RS1 DNA. This size heterogeneity was concluded to be of biological origin, was independent of the specific host strain used to propagate virus, and was not due to the presence of host DNA within or nonspecifically associated with purified virions. In addition, treatment of RS1 DNA with either BAL 31 nuclease or DNA polymerase I Klenow fragment revealed that several distinct regions exist within the viral chromosome which contain free 3' hydroxyl groups. A restriction endonuclease map of the RS1 genome was constructed by using the restriction endonucleases EcoRI, ClaI, KpnI, BamHI, MluI, SmaI, and BclI; thereby allowing the positioning of some 40 restriction sites within the viral genome. The results are discussed in terms of the significance and the possible biological origin of the unique features discovered within the phage RS1 DNA.