The VP1 gene of foot-and-mouth disease virus (serotype C1) has been cloned in Escherichia coli Clts cells, under the control of the bacteriophage lambda pL promoter. The expressed VP1 protein was complete and non-fused, and its molecular weight was indistinguishable from that of the VP1 obtained from virions. Cells harbouring the recombinant vectors exhibited symptoms of plasmid instability and toxicity and died in a few weeks even when never exposed to inducing conditions. A new plasmid clone in which a segment of the VP1 gene was fused with contiguous genes of the viral genome was very stable. The expressed partial VP1 protein contains the two major immunogenic domains of the virion. This system can be used as a tool to design an immunogenic VP1, and to explore possible synthetic vaccines against foot-and-mouth disease. © 1991 Springer-Verlag.