Coronaviruses generally have a narrow host range, infecting one or just a few species. Using targeted RNA recombination, we constructed a mutant of the coronavirus mouse hepatitis virus (MHV) in which the ectodomain of the spike glycoprotein (S) was replaced with the highly divergent ectodomain of the S protein of feline infectious peritonitis virus. The resulting chimeric virus, designated fMHV, acquired the ability to infect feline cells and simultaneously lost the ability to infect murine cells in tissue culture. This reciprocal switch of species specificity strongly supports the notion that coronavirus host cell range is determined primarily at the level of interactions between the S protein and the virus receptor. The isolation of fMHV allowed the localization of the region responsible for S protein incorporation into virions to the carboxy-terminal 64 of the 1,324 residues of this protein. This establishes a basis for further definition of elements involved in virion assembly. In addition, fMHV is potentially the ideal recipient virus for carrying out reverse genetics of MHV by targeted RNA recombination, since it presents the possibility of selecting recombinants, no matter how defective, that have regained the ability to replicate in murine cells.