Canine distemper virus (CDV) is a negative-sense, single-stranded RNA virus within the genus Morbillivirus and the family Paramyxoviridae. The Morbillivirus genome is composed of six transcriptional units that are separated by untranslated regions (UTRs), which are relatively uniform in length, with the exception of the UTR between the matrix (M) and fusion (F) genes. This UTR is at least three times longer and in the case of CDV also highly variable. Exchange of the M-F region between different CDV strains did not affect virulence or disease phenotype, demonstrating that this region is functionally interchangeable. Viruses carrying the deletions in the M 3′ UTR replicated more efficiently, which correlated with a reduction of virulence, suggesting that overall length as well as specific sequence motifs distributed throughout the region contribute to virulence.