The avian leukosis virus ΔLR-9 causes a high frequency of B-cell lymphomas within weeks after injection into 10-day-old chicken embryos. These lymphomas result from proviral integrations into the oncogene c-myb. In contrast, LR-9, which lacks the 42-nucleotide gag gene deletion of ΔLR-9, does not cause a high frequency of c-myb-associated short-latency lymphomas. Although viral replication rates and spliced env mRNA levels were found to be similar for both viruses, ΔLR-9 exhibited an increase in readthrough transcription compared to LR-9. The ΔLR-9 deletion is located in the region of the gag gene corresponding to the matrix (MA) protein as well as in the negative regulator of splicing (NRS) element. To test whether disruption of the NRS or of the MA protein was responsible for inducing short-latency lymphomas, we generated viruses with NRS point mutations that maintained the wild-type Gag amino acid sequence. One of the mutant viruses induced an even higher incidence than ΔLR-9 of short-latency lymphomas with viral integrations into c-myb. Thus, we propose that disruption of the NRS sequence promotes readthrough transcription and splicing to the downstream myb gene, causing overexpression of a slightly truncated Myb protein, which induces short-latency tumors.