The interrupted T4 phage td gene, which encodes thymidylate synthase, is the first known example of an intron-containing prokaryotic structural gene. Analysis of td-encoded transcripts provides evidence in favor of maturation at the RNA level. Northern blotting with T4 RNA and with region-specific probes revealed three classes of RNA: diffuse premessage (ca. 2.5 kb), a low-abundance mature mRNA (ca. 1.3 kb), and an abundant free intron RNA (ca. 1.0 kb). The existence of covalently joined mature mRNA was suggested by hybridization and S1 protection experiments and was confirmed by primer extension analysis of the splice junction. In analogy to expression of interrupted eukaryotic genes, these results are consistent with an RNA processing model that would account for the direct gene transcript serving as precursor for both free intron RNA and a spliced mRNA that is colinear with the thymidylate synthase product.