Using morphological and cell biological techniques, we have shown that the RNA replicase of Semliki Forest and Sindbis virus (two closely related alphaviruses) is located in complex ribonucleoprotein structures associated with the cytoplasmic surface of modified secondary lysosomes and endosomes. These nucleoprotein complexes often form a bridge between the membrane of the endocytic vacuole and the rough endoplasmic reticulum where the synthesis of the structural proteins of these viruses occurs. The results suggest that these cytopathic vacuoles constitute sites not only for viral RNA synthesis, but also for translation of structural proteins, and for the assembly of nucleocapsids.

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