Using a combination of centrifugal elutriation and recultivation of synchronised cell populations we could show that murine thymidine kinase (TK) is rapidly degraded during mitosis in polyoma virus-transformed mouse fibroblasts, in parallel to the time-course for loss of cyclin A. Transformation is no prerequisite for the instability phenotype since artificial overexpression of TK under the control of a constitutive promoter in normal mouse fibroblasts also resulted in rapid turnover of TK during mitosis. The decay of TK protein could be partially mimicked in vitro with enzymatically active protein translated in a rabbit reticulocyte lysate: full length polypeptide was lost slightly more rapidly in the presence of G2/M cytosolic extracts than with G1/S preparations. In addition, an enzymatically active C-terminal truncation of 37 amino acids at Gln-196 was completely stable under the conditions tested, confining the instability domain between residues 196 to 233. These experiments also indicated the border for intact TK since translation products up to Tyr-189 or less were completely inactive. This was also confirmed by a mutant TK protein from mouse F9tk- teratocarcinoma cells which harboured a similar deletion.