A protein kinase activity was found to be associated with tree shrew (tupaia) herpesvirus. The protein kinase was characterized with respect to its requirements for enzymatic activity. A divalent cation such as Mg2+ or Mn2+ was necessary as well as ATP as the phosphate donor. Distinct tupaia herpesvirus polypeptides (molecular weights of 100,000 [100K], 82K, and 53K) were found to be phosphate acceptor proteins when 5 mM Mg2+ was used. At a higher Mg2+ concentration (20 mM), additional viral proteins (220K, 71K, 31K, and 20K) were phosphorylated. The viral phosphoproteins were analyzed by chemical and enzymatic hydrolyses. The predominant sites of phosphorylation were the beta-OH groups of the serine and threonine residues of these tupaia herpesvirus proteins. Kinase activity was not stimulated by cyclic nucleoside monophosphates. Endogenously added proteins did not enhance protein kinase activity. Protein kinase activity was inhibited by 5'-p-fluorosulfonylbenzoyladenosine.