The expression of antigens or other molecules from recombinant vaccinia viruses requires the insertion of coding sequence at specific sites in the viral genome. Here we investigate the influence of two different sites on the level of protein expressed during a viral infection. The level of immune response in mice to vaccinia virus-expressed murine interleukin 2 (IL-2) or IL-4 varied depending on whether the coding sequence was inserted into the vaccinia virus thymidine kinase (tk) gene or into the HindIII F fragment of the viral genome where herpes simplex virus (HSV) tk was used as a selectable marker. In each case the intensity of the response was greater when the relevant gene was expressed from the HindIII F insertion site. In order to quantify these differences a series of recombinant viruses expressing luciferase was constructed. Luciferase activity from coding sequence inserted into the HindIII F fragment was significantly higher than that from the tk gene insertion, provided HSV tk(+) constructs were compared. Insertion of a marker gene (HSV tk) into the HindIII F site with disruption of the F7L open reading frame led to a reduced level of luciferase expressed from the tk insert, despite more than 45 kb of intervening sequence. In mice, luciferase expression was higher from the HindIII F inserted gene than from the tk insert in both lungs and ovaries.