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Cowpox virus (CPXV) belongs to the genus Orthopoxvirus in the Poxviridae family. It infects a broad range of vertebrates and can cause zoonotic infections. CPXV has the largest genome among the orthopoxviruses and is therefore considered to have the most complete set of genes of all members of the genus. Since CPXV has also become a model for studying poxvirus genetics and pathogenesis, we created and characterized a complete set of single gene knockout bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) clones of the CPXV strain Brighton Red. These mutants allow a systematic assessment of the contribution of single CPXV genes to the outcome of virus infection and replication, as well as to the virus host range. A full-length BAC clone of CPXV strain Brighton Red (pBRF) harboring the gene expressing the enhanced green fluorescent protein under the control of a viral late promoter was modified by introducing the mrfp1 gene encoding the monomeric red fluorescent protein driven by a synthetic early vaccinia virus promoter. Based on the modified BAC (pBRFseR), a library of targeted knockout mutants for each single viral open reading frame (ORF) was generated. Reconstitution of infectious virus was successful for 109 of the 183 mutant BAC clones, indicating that the deleted genes are not essential for virus replication. In contrast, 74 ORFs were identified as essential because no virus progeny was obtained upon transfection of the mutant BAC clones and in the presence of a helper virus. More than 70% of all late CPXV genes belonged to this latter group of essential genes.