We examined DNA sequence polymorphism for the colicin gene clusters of seven ColE1 and six ColIa plasmids obtained from natural isolates of Escherichia coli. These gene clusters harbor levels of nucleotide diversity ranging from 0.006 (ColIa) to 0.054 (ColE1). This level of diversity is similar to that observed for chromosomally encoded E. coli genes. However, the variance associated with these estimates is severalfold higher for the plasmid-encoded genes. This increased variance may be due to the differing plasmid population sizes. The pattern of colicin gene cluster polymorphism suggests that the two colicins are evolving in different fashions. ColE1 accumulates polymorphism at an elevated rate in the central domain of the colicin protein, while ColIa polymorphism is distributed evenly along the gene cluster. Comparison of the patterns of divergence between colicin and related proteins of ColIa and Ib and patterns of polymorphism within ColIa suggest that this gene cluster is not evolving in a neutral fashion. These data lend support to the hypothesis that colicin gene clusters may evolve under the influence of diversifying selection.