Genes encoding small subunit ribosomal RNA (SSUrRNA) of 16 Blastocystis isolates from humans and other animals were amplified by the polymerase chain reaction, and the corresponding fragments were cloned and sequenced. Alignment of these sequences with the previously reported ones indicated the presence of 7 different sequence patterns in the highly variable regions of the small subunit ribosomal RNA. Phylogenetic reconstruction analysis using Proteromonas lacertae as the outgroup clearly demonstrated that the 7 groups with the different sequence patterns are separated to form independent clades, 5 of which consisted of the Blastocystis isolates from both humans (B. hominis) and other animals. The presence of 3 higher order clades was also clearly supported in the phylogenetic tree. However, a relationship among the 4 groups including these 3 higher order clades was not settled with statistical confidence. The remarkable heterogeneity of small subunit ribosomal RNAs among different Blastocystis isolates found in this study confirmed, with sequence-based evidence, that these organisms are genetically highly divergent in spite of their morphological identity. The highly variable small subunit ribosomal RNA regions among the distinct groups will provide useful information for the development of group-specific diagnostic primers.