The sequence of the gene encoding the L protein of the human parainfluenza 3 virus was determined by direct dideoxy sequence analysis of the genomic 50 S RNA and confirmed by molecular cloning and sequence analysis of recombinant clones. A series of three overlapping clones was generated by primer extension using genomic 50 S RNA as the template. These clones originate within the 5' end of the hemagglutinin-neuraminidase gene, span the entire L gene, and extend into the extracistronic 5' end of the viral RNA. The L gene extends 6755 nucleotides (inclusive of the putative transcription initiation and polyadenylation signal sequences) and encodes a protein consisting of 2233 amino acids (MW 255,812). There are 44 nucleotides downstream of the putative polyadenylation signal sequence which may represent a negative-strand leader. The complementary sequence of the extracistronic region is nearly identical to the 3' end of the viral RNA. Thirty-three of the first thirty-nine nucleotides of the 3' ends of the plus and minus strands are conserved. Comparison of amino acid sequence homology with other paramyxoviral L proteins indicates a high degree of sequence conservation with Sendai virus (62%) and Newcastle disease virus (28%). In addition, four smaller regions were identified which shared extensive homology with the L protein of vesicular stomatitis virus, a member of the Rhabdoviridae family.