The myxoma virus thymidine kinase (TK) gene is encoded on a 1.6 kb I-I restriction fragment located between 57.7 and 59.3 kb on the 163 kb genomic map. The nucleotide sequence of this fragment as well as 228 bp from the adjacent I-AA2 fragment was determined and found to encode four major open reading frames (ORFs). Three of these ORFs are similar in nucleotide sequence to ORFs L5R and J1R, and the TK gene of vaccinia virus (VV). The fourth ORF, MF8a, shows similarity to the ORFs found in the same position relative to the TK genes of Shope fibroma virus, Kenya sheep-1 virus and swine-pox virus. A search of the complete VV nucleotide sequence for regions of similarity to MF8a identified the host specificity gene C7L. Northern blot analysis of early viral RNA identified transcripts of approximately 700 nucleotides for both the TK gene and ORF MF8a. The 5′ ends of the TK gene and ORF MF8a early mRNAs were mapped by primer extension to initiation sites 13 nucleotides downstream of sequences with similarity to the VV early promoter consensus. The sizes of the TK and MF8a mRNAs are consistent with transcription termination and polyadenylation occurring downstream of the sequence TTTTTNT, which is identical to the consensus sequence for the VV transcription termination signal.


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