Natural killer (NK) cells play important roles in controlling tumor cells and against a range of infectious organisms. Recent studies of mouse NK cell surface receptors, which may be involved in the specificity of NK cells, have shown that many of these molecules are encoded by the Ly49 and Ly55 (Nkrp1) multigene families that map to distal mouse chromosome 6. Also mapping to this NK cell gene complex (NKC) is the resistance locus, Cmv1, which is involved in genetically determined resistance to murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV). The aim of this study was to localize Cmv1 more precisely in relation to other NKC loci by generating a high-resolution genetic map of the region. We have analyzed 1250 backcross mice comprising panels of 700 (BALB/c x C57BL/6J)F1 x BALB/c and 550 (A/J x C57BL/6J)F1 x A/J progeny. A total of 25 polymorphic genes or microsatellite markers were analyzed over a region of 10 map units from D6Mit134 to D6Mit59. The Cmv1 phenotypes of mice recombinant in this interval were tested by infection with MCMV. The results obtained indicate that the functionally important NKC region is a tightly linked cluster of loci spanning at least 0.4 map units. Furthermore, Cmv1 maps distal to, but very closely linked to, the Ly49 multigene family (< 0.2 map units), suggesting that MCMV resistance may be conferred by MHC class I-specific NK cell receptors.