A human cytomegalovirus early gene which possesses three temporally regulated promoters is located in the large unique component of the viral genome between 0.054 and 0.064 map units (C.-P. Chang, C.L. Malone, and M.F. Stinski, J. Virol. 63:281-290, 1989). This gene contains a major open reading frame (ORF) located 233 bases downstream of the cap site of an early unspliced RNA. The major ORF predicts a polypeptide of 17 kilodaltons (kDa) which contains a glycoproteinlike signal and anchor domains as well as potential N-glycosylation sites. Antisera were prepared against synthetic peptides derived from amino acid sequences within the major ORF. The antisera detected a viral glycoprotein of 48 kDa in infected cells and recognized the in vitro-translated 17-kDa protein early-gene product. The viral glycoprotein, designated gp48, was modified by N-linked glycans and possibly O-linked glycans. The synthesis of gp48 occurred in the absence of viral DNA replication but accumulated to the highest levels at late times after infection. Since gp48 was found in the virion, it is considered an early structural glycoprotein.