A genetic approach has been exploited to investivate adenylate salvage pathways in the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii, a purine auxotroph. Using a new insertional mutagenesis vector designed to facilitate the rescue of tagged loci even when multiple plasmids integrate as a tandem array, 15 independent clonal lines resistant to the toxic nucleoside analog adenine arabinoside (AraA) were generated. Approximately two-thirds of these clones lack adenosine kinase (AK) activity. Parallel studies identified an expressed sequence tag (EST) exhibiting a small region of weak similarity to human AK, and this locus was tagged in several AK-deficient insertional mutants. Library screening yielded full-length cDNA and genomic clones. The T. gondii AK gene contains five exons spanning a ~3 kb locus, and the predicted coding sequence was employed to identify additional AK genes and cDNAs in the GenBank and dbEST databases. A genomic construct lacking essential coding sequence was used to create defined genetic knock-outs at the T. gondii AK locus, and AK activity was restored using a cDNA-derived minigene. Hybridization analysis of DNA from 13 AraA-resistant insertional mutants reveals three distinct classes: (i) AK- mutants tagged at the AK locus; (ii) AK- mutants not tagged at the AK locus, suggesting the possibility that another locus may be involved in regulating AK expression; and (iii) mutants with normal AK activity (potential transport mutants). Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V.