Tick-borne Thogoto virus (THOV) represents the prototype virus of a new genus in the Orthomyxoviridae family. Its genome consists of six segments of negative-sense, single-stranded RNA. We have cloned and sequenced the fifth genomic segment, which codes for the viral nucleoprotein (NP). The deduced amino acid sequence shows 43% similarity to the NP of Dhori virus, a related tick-transmitted orthomyxovirus, and about 14% sequence similarity to those of the influenza viruses. To reveal the mechanism by which THOV initiates mRNA synthesis, we characterized the 5' ends of the NP mRNAs. Transcripts were recognized by a cap-specific monoclonal antibody, indicating that THOV mRNAs are capped. Surprisingly, no large heterogeneous extensions were found at the 5' end, as would have been expected if THOV were using a classical "cap-stealing" mechanism. We therefore propose that THOV is stealing only the cap structure with one or two additional nucleotides from cellular mRNAs to generate appropriate primers for initiation of viral mRNA transcription.