The human T-cell leukemia viruses (HTLV) are replication-competent retroviruses whose genomes contain gag, pol, and env genes as well as a fourth gene, termed x, which is believed to be the transforming gene of HTLV. The product of the x gene is now shown to be encoded by a 2.1-kilobase messenger RNA derived by splicing of at least two introns. By means of S1 nuclease mapping of this RNA and nucleic acid sequence analysis of a complementary DNA clone, the complete primary structure of the x-gene product has been determined. It is encoded by sequences containing the env initiation codon and one nucleotide of the next codon spliced to the major open reading frame of the HTLV-I and HTLV-II x gene.