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Marek's disease virus (MDV) encodes an ubiquitin-specific protease (USP) within its UL36 gene. USP is highly conserved among herpesviruses and was shown to be important for MDV replication and pathogenesis in MDV's natural host, the chicken. To further investigate the role of MDV USP, several recombinant (r) MDVs were generated and their in vitro phenotypes were evaluated using plaque size and growth kinetics assays. We discovered that the N-terminus of pUL36 is essential for MDV replication and could not be complemented by ectopic expression of MDV USP. In addition, we demonstrated that the region located between the conserved glutamine (Q85) and leucine (L106) residues comprising the active site cysteine (C98) is also essential for MDV replication. Based on the analyses of the rMDVs generated here, we concluded that MDV USP likely contributes to the structure and/or stability of pUL36 and affects replication and oncogenesis of MDV beyond its enzymatic activity.