The high prevalences of antibodies against human T-cell leukemia (lymphotropic) virus type I (HTLV-I) reported for remote populations in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands and for some aboriginal populations in Australia have been verified by virus isolation. Limited genetic analysis of the transmembrane portion (gp21) of the envelope gene of these viruses indicates the existence of highly divergent HTLV-I strains in Melanesia. Here, we report the complete nucleotide sequence of an HTLV-I isolate (designated HTLV-IMEL5) from the Solomon Islands. The overall nucleotide divergence of HTLV-IMEL5 from the prototype HTLV-IATK was approximately 8.5%. The degree of variability in the amino acid sequences of structural genes ranged between 3 and 11% and was higher (8.5 to 25%) for the regulatory (tax and rex) genes and the other genes encoded by the pX region. Since HTLV-IMEL5 was as distantly related to HTLV-II as to the other known HTLV-I strains, it could not have arisen from a reocmbinational event involving HTLV-II but rather might be an example of independent viral evolution in this remote population. These data provide important insights and raise new questions about the origin and global dissemination of HTLV-I.