Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a major pathogen in immunosuppressed individuals, including patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome. The nucleoside analogue ganciclovir (9-(1,3-dihydroxy-2-propoxymethyl)-guanine) is one of the few drugs available to treat HCMV infections, but resistant virus is a growing problem in the clinic and there is a critical need for new drugs. The study of ganciclovir-resistant mutants has indicated that the selective action of ganciclovir depends largely on virus-controlled phosphorylation in HCMV-infected cells. The enzyme(s) responsible have not been identified. Here we report that the HCMV gene UL97, whose predicted product shares regions of homology with protein kinases, guanylyl cyclase and bacterial phosphotransferases, controls phosphorylation of ganciclovir in HCMV-infected cells. A four-amino-acid deletion of UL97 in a conserved region, which in cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase participates in substrate recognition, causes impaired ganciclovir phosphorylation. The implications of these results for antiviral drug development and drug resistance are discussed.