Homologous recombination is a dominant force in evolution and results in genetic mosaics. To detect evidence of recombination events and assess the biological significance of genetic mosaics, genome sequences for various viral populations of reasonably large size are now available in the GenBank. We studied a multi-functional viral gene, the adeno-associated virus (AAV) cap gene, which codes for three capsid proteins, VP1, VP2 and VP3. VP1-3 share a common C-terminal domain corresponding to VP3, which forms the viral core structure, while the VP1 unique N-terminal part contains an enzymatic domain with phospholipase A2 activity. Our recombinant detection program (Recl) revealed five novel recombination events, four of which have their cross-over points in the N-terminal, VP1 an VP2 unique region. Comparison of phylogenetic trees for different cap gene regions confirmed discordant phylogenies for the recombinant sequences. Furthermore, differences in the phylogenetic tree structures for the VP1 unique (VP1u) region and the rest of cap highlighted the mosaic nature of cap gene in the AAV population: two dominant forms of VP1u sequences were identified and these forms are linked to diverse sequences in the rest of cap gene. This observation together with the finding of frequent recombination in the VP1 and 2 unique regions suggests that this region is a recombination hot spot. Recombination events in this region preserve protein blocks of distinctive functions and contribute to convergence in VP1u and divergence of the rest of cap. Additionally the possible biological significance of two dominant VP1u forms is inferred. © 2008 Takeuchi et al.