Brome mosaic virus (BMV) RNA that had both termini chemically modified by periodate oxidation and aniline-catalyzed cleavage of the terminal nucleotide had drastically reduced infectivity. BMV RNA that was first enzymatically tyrosylated to protect the 3' terminus from modification, and then modified at the 5' terminus by periodate oxidation and aniline cleavage, had a similar reduction in infectivity. Tyrosylation followed by acetylation modifies only the 3' terminus. Nevertheless, acetylated tyrosyl-BMV RNA was less than one-fourth as infectious as a control sample subjected to procedures that differed only by the presence of tyrosinol (which prevents aminoacylation and subsequent acetylation). For each modified form of viral RNA, care was taken to test the infectivity of appropriate control samples. The integrity of the modified RNAs was examined by gel electrophoresis and by biological translation and aminoacylation assays. We conclude that, in different ways, both the 5'- and 3'-terminal structures of BMV RNA play important roles during infection of the host.