In order to identify the determinants responsible for the nuclear migration of simian virus 40 (SV40) polypeptide VP1, the 5'-terminal portion of the SV40 VP1 gene was fused with the complete cDNA sequence of poliovirus capsid polypeptide VP1 and the hybrid gene was inserted into an SV40 vector in place of the normal SV40 VP1 gene. Deletions of various length were generated in the SV40 VP1 portion of the hybrid gene, resulting in a set of truncated genes encoding 2-40 NH2-terminal amino acids from SV40 VP1, followed by poliovirus VP1. Monkey kidney cells were infected by the deleted hybrid viruses in the presence of an early SV40 amber mutant as helper, and the subcellular localization of the fusion proteins was determined by indirect immunofluorescence using an anti-poliovirus VP1 immune serum. The presence of the first 11 NH2-terminal amino acids from SV40 VP1 was found to be sufficient to target the fusion protein to the cell nucleus. Deletions extending from the NH2- towards the COOH-terminal end of the protein were next generated. Transport of the SV40 VP1-poliovirus VP1 fusion polypeptide to the nucleus was abolished when the first eight amino acids from SV40 VP1 were deleted. Thus the sequence of the first eight NH2-terminal amino acids of SV40 VP1 appears to contain a nuclear migration signal which is sufficient to target the protein to the cell nucleus.