The complete nucleotide sequence of the 71V-1658 strain of western equine encephalitis virus (WEE) was determined (minus 25 nucleotides from the 5' end). A 5' RACE reaction was used to sequence the 5' terminus from WEE strain CBA87. The deduced WEE genome was 11508 nucleotides in length, excluding the 5' cap nucleotide and 3' poly(A) tail. The nucleotide composition was 28% A, 25% C, 25% G and 22% U. Comparison with partial WEE sequences of strain 5614 (nsP2-nsP3 of the nonstructural region) and strain BFS1703 (26S structural region) revealed comparatively little variation; a total of 149 nucleotide differences in 8624 bases (1.7% divergence), of which only 28% (42 nucleotides) altered the encoded amino acids. Comparison of deduced nsP1 and nsP4 amino acid sequences from WEE with the corresponding proteins from eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEE) yielded identities of 84.9 and 83.8%, respectively. Previously uncharacterized stem-loop structures were identified in the nontranslated terminal regions. A cDNA clone of the 26S region encoding the structural polyprotein of WEE strain 71V-1658 was placed under the control of a cytomegalovirus promoter and transfected into tissue culture cells. The viral envelope proteins were functionally expressed in tissue culture, as determined by histochemical staining with monoclonal antibodies that recognize WEE antigens, thus, forming the initial step in the investigation of subunit vaccines to WEE.