The gp63 encoding genes were characterized by PCR–RFLP in 35 isolates representative of the Leishmania donovani complex (L. infantum, L. donovani, L. archibaldi and L. chagasi), with special attention to Mediterranean L. infantum from different geographical origins, and in separate groups from Old World Leishmania (L. major, L. tropica and L. aethiopica). The aim was to evaluate how the possible selective pressure by the host on these important surface proteins would influence structuring of our sample. Comparison was carried out with the structure obtained (i) from reported isoenzyme data, characters supposed to vary neutrally, and (ii) from PCR–RFLP analysis of gp63 inter-genic regions, containing non-translated spacers and regulatory genes. Polymorphism within the gp63-encoding region, was much higher than in gp63 inter-genic regions. In the gp63 intra-genic dendrogram, the 4 species of L. donovani complex were discriminated and quite distinct from outgroups. Within L. infantum, geographical structuring was observed and did not overlap with the structure built-up from isoenzymes and inter-genic data. These results support the idea of a strong host-selection on gp63, at vector level but most of all at vertebrate (human or dog) immunological level. Furthermore, they illustrate how the nature of genetic characters may influence the perception of population structuring.