The 31 human adenoviruses (Ad) from five groups (A-E) whose DNAs are <20% homologous by molecular hybridization. Ad5 (group C) DNA contains a 55,000-dalton protein probably covalently bound to each 5' terminus. This covalently bound protein may be analogous to polypeptides found in other viral and nonviral systems that are covalently bound to genomic DNAs or RNAs and that are thought to function in DNA or RNA replication. Because of the importance of proteins linked to nucleic acids, we have investigated whether DNAs from all five groups of human adenoviruses have terminal proteins, as well as the peptide relationships among the different terminal proteins. We show here that DNAs from Ad12, 7, 2, 19, and 4, representing Ad groups A-E, respectively, all contain covalently bound proteins of about 55,000 daltons. To investigate the peptide relatedness among the terminal proteins, we prepared microgram quantities of covalently bound protein from Ads in groups A-E and compared their chymotryptic and tryptic (125)I-labeled peptide maps. We find that the covalently bound protein maps of the five Ad groups are highly related and possibly identical. On the other hand, the tryptic and chymotryptic peptide maps of the major virion protein II and the core proteins V and VII of groups B, C, and E Ads show considerable heterology. Assuming that the covalently bound protein is virally coded, the conserved primary sequence of these proteins suggests a major functional role for the protein in Ad replication. Because the genetic origin of the Ad covalently bound proteins is not established, our data are also consistent with the possibility that the protein is coded by a cellular gene.