Background. Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a betaherpesvirus that causes severe disease in situations where the immune system is immature or compromised. HCMV immediate early (IE) gene expression is stimulated by the virion phosphoprotein pp71, encoded by open reading frame (ORF) UL82, and this transactivation activity is important for the efficient initiation of viral replication. It is currently recognized that pp71 acts to overcome cellular intrinsic defences that otherwise block viral IE gene expression, and that interactions of pp71 with the cell proteins Daxx and ATRX are important for this function. A further property of pp71 is the ability to enable prolonged gene expression from quiescent herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) genomes. Non-human primate cytomegaloviruses encode homologs of pp71, but there is currently no published information that addresses their effects on gene expression and modes of action. Results. The UL82 homolog encoded by simian cytomegalovirus (SCMV), strain Colburn, was identified and cloned. This ORF, named S82, was cloned into an HSV-1 vector, as were those from baboon, rhesus monkey and chimpanzee cytomegaloviruses. The use of an HSV-1 vector enabled expression of the UL82 homologs in a range of cell types, and permitted investigation of their abilities to direct prolonged gene expression from quiescent genomes. The results show that all UL82 homologs activate gene expression, and that neither host cell type nor promoter target sequence has major effects on these activities. Surprisingly, the UL82 proteins specified by non-human primate cytomegaloviruses, unlike pp71, did not direct long term expression from quiescent HSV-1 genomes. In addition, significant differences were observed in the intranuclear localization of the UL82 homologs, and in their effects on Daxx. Strikingly, S82 mediated the release of Daxx from nuclear domain 10 substructures much more rapidly than pp71 or the other proteins tested. All UL82 homologs stimulated the early release of ATRX from nuclear domain 10. Conclusion. All of the UL82 homolog proteins analysed activated gene expression, but surprising differences in other aspects of their properties were revealed. The results provide new information on early events in infection with cytomegaloviruses.