We analyzed the 186,102 base pairs (bp) that constitute the entire DNA genome of a highly virulent variola virus isolated from Bangladesh in 1975. The linear, double-stranded molecule has relatively small (725 bp) inverted terminal repeat (ITR) sequences containing three 69-bp direct repeat elements, a 54-bp partial repeat element, and a 105-base telomeric end-loop that can be maximally base-paired to contain 17 mismatches. Proximal to the right-end ITR sequences are another seven 69-bp elements and a 53- and a 27-bp partial element. Sequence analysis showed 187 closely spaced open reading frames specifying putative major proteins containing > or = 65 amino acids. Most of the virus proteins correspond to proteins in current databases, including 150 proteins that have > 90% identity to major gene products encoded by vaccinia virus, the smallpox vaccine. Variola virus has a group of proteins that are truncated compared with vaccinia virus counterparts and a smaller group of proteins that are elongated. The terminal regions encode several novel proteins and variants of other poxvirus proteins that potentially augment variola virus transmissibility and virulence for its only natural host, humans.