We have examined the effects of transcription on recombination frequencies in poxvirus-infected cells. A synthetic poxviral promoter was shown to function as a hybrid early/late transcription element when fused to a luciferase reporter gene, and then cloned into genetically-marked recombination substrates. These lambda DNA substrates were transfected into cells infected with Shope fibroma virus (SFV) and the recombinants detected by recovering the transfected DNA, packaging it in vitro into infectious particles, and then assaying the yield of recombinants on Escherichia coli. Controls showed that the poxviral promoter conferred no replicative advantage, or disadvantage, on molecules encoding the promoter. Furthermore, the promoter had no detectable effect on the recombination frequency when recombination was measured in the interval immediately adjacent to the promoter-insertion site. However, the promoter did appear to stimulate recombination at a distance, in a manner that appeared to be dependent on the level of transcription, and the effect was observed regardless of whether or not the promoter was present on one or both of the recombinational substrates. The peak of recombinational enhancement was centered about 500 bp away from the promoter element, where the frequency of recombination was 30-50% higher than that seen when the recombinational substrates lacked the promoter. Possible explanations for these observations are discussed.