Background Whitefly-transmitted geminiviruses (family Geminiviridae, genus Begomovirus) are major limiting factors for the production of numerous dicotyledonous crops throughout the warmer regions of the world. In the Old World a small number of begomoviruses have genomes consisting of two components whereas the majority have single-component genomes. Most of the monopartite begomoviruses associate with satellite DNA molecules, the most important of which are the betasatellites. Cotton leaf curl disease (CLCuD) is one of the major problems for cotton production on the Indian sub-continent. Across Pakistan, CLCuD is currently associated with a single begomovirus (Cotton leaf curl Burewala virus [CLCuBuV]) and the cotton-specific betasatellite Cotton leaf curl Multan betasatellite (CLCuMuB), both of which have recombinant origins. Surprisingly, CLCuBuV lacks C2, one of the genes present in all previously characterized begomoviruses. Virus-specific transcripts have only been mapped for few begomoviruses, including one monopartite begomovirus that does not associate with betasatellites. Similarly, the transcripts of only two betasatellites have been mapped so far. The study described has investigated whether the recombination/mutation events involved in the evolution of CLCuBuV and its associated CLCuMuB have affected their transcription strategies. Results The major transcripts of CLCuBuV and its associated betasatellite (CLCuMuB) from infected Nicotiana benthamiana plants have been determined. Two complementary-sense transcripts of ~1.7 and ~0.7 kb were identified for CLCuBuV. The ~1.7 kb transcript appears similar in position and size to that of several begomoviruses and likely directs the translation of C1 and C4 proteins. Both complementary-sense transcripts can potentially direct the translation of C2 and C3 proteins. A single virion-sense transcript of ~1 kb, suitable for translation of the V1 and V2 genes was identified. A predominant complementary-sense transcript was also confirmed for the betasatellite. Conclusions Overall, the transcription of CLCuBuV and the recombinant CLCuMuB is equivalent to earlier mapped begomoviruses/betasatellites. The recombination events that featured in the origins of these components had no detectable effects on transcription. The transcripts spanning the mutated C2 gene showed no evidence for involvement of splicing in restoring the ability to express intact C2 protein.