Purified preparations of Rous sarcoma virus (RSV) contain ribonuclease which is either a constituent of the virion surface or an adsorbed contaminant. Treatment of the virus with nonionic detergent to activate ribonucleic acid (RNA)-dependent deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) polymerase renders the viral genome susceptible to hydrolysis by the external ribonuclease. The extent of this susceptibility can be substantially reduced by the use of limited amounts of detergent. At a concentration of detergent which provides a maximum initial rate of DNA synthesis, the degradation of endogenous viral RNA results in a reduced yield of high molecular weight DNA: RNA hybrid from the polymerase reaction. Attempts to detect virion-associated deoxyribonuclease, by using a variety of double helical DNA species as substrates, have been unsuccessful, but small amounts of nuclease activity directed against single-stranded DNA may be present in purified virus.