We describe the mutagenesis of the IRSI-US5 region of the human cytomegalovirus genome, demonstrating the potential of the E. coli guanosine phosphoribosyl transferase (gpt) gene as a selectable marker for insertion and deletion mutagenesis of high passage (AD169, Towne) as well as low passage (Toledo) strains of virus. Despite evidence suggesting that the US3 gene product may play a regulatory role, disruption of this gene with a gpt insert had no effect on growth of any of these strains of virus in resting or dividing human fibroblasts, or in human thymus plus liver implants in SCID-hu mice. Transcripts of the gpt gene, under control of the herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase promoter adjacent to the US3 enhancer in the viral genome, accumulated with delayed early (beta) kinetics. Mutants with deletions in the IRS1 and US3-US5 regions were isolated by back-selection against gpt with the drug 6-thioguanine by growing virus in human Lesch-Nyhan (hypoxanthine-guanine phosphoribosyl transferase deficient) skin fibroblasts immortalized with human papillomavirus oncogenes. Thus, we demonstrate a dependable method for insertion and deletion mutagenesis that can be applied to any region of the viral genome.