Detailed structures are now available for three plant satellite viruses, satellite tobacco necrosis virus (STNV), satellite tobacco mosaic virus (STMV), and satellite panicum mosaic virus (SPMV). It is, therefore, possible to compare the tertiary structure of viral protein subunits, their quaternary interactions, and the interactions of protein subunits with the RNA genome. This analysis indicates that, in spite of common function and preservation of a "jelly-roll" motif in the protein monomer, the three viruses are remarkably different. The differences include the arrangement of secondary structural elements, interactions of adjacent subunits, and the disposition of subunits relative to icosahedral symmetry axes. In each of the three viruses, however, the narrow end of the jelly roll forms fivefold contacts. The fivefold protein interactions are organized about a Ca2+ ion for STNV, an anion for STMV, and, apparently, neither of these for SPMV. Low-resolution neutron diffraction studies using H2O/D2O solvent contrast variation revealed the general location of the RNA genome within the STNV. In the case of SPMV, regions of electron density on the interior of the capsid could be assigned to RNA, although it was not possible to model the nucleic acid. Only for STMV was nucleic acid visible in election density maps, and this was manifested as double-helical RNA segments associated with each coat protein dimer. The observations presented here provide no support for any common evolutionary relationship.