We demonstrate that recombinant viruses formed between a wild-type virus and a viral transgene can be isolated from transgenic plants under conditions of moderate to weak selection pressure. We inoculated cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) strain W260 to transgenic Nicotiana bigelovii plants that expressed a copy of CaMV gene VI derived from CaMV strain D4, a gene that determines systemic infection of solanaceous species, including N. bigelovii. Because W260 infects nontransformed N. bigelovii systemically, a recombinant virus formed between W260 and the D4 transgene would be expected to have little selective advantage over the wild-type W260 virus W260 was inoculated to approximately 100 plants each of nontransformed and transgenic N. bigelovii and it systemically infected nearly all of the plants. An analysis of viral DNA recovered from 23 transgenic plants infected with W260 revealed that 20 infections resulted from the systemic movement of the wild-type W260 virus, while a recombinant between W260 and the D4 transgene was detected in three of the infections. To determine the percentage of recovery of recombinant viruses under strong selection pressure, we inoculated approximately 100 nontransformed and 100 D4 gene VI transgenic plants with CaMV strain CM1841, a virus that is unable to infect nontransformed N. bigelovii. CM1841 infected 36% of the transgenic plants systemically, but none of the nontransformed controls. An analysis of 24 infected plants showed that a recombination event occurred in every plant, demonstrating that under strong selection conditions, the recovery of CaMV recombinants from transgenic plants can be very high.