Equine arteritis virus (EAV) (ARTERIVIRIDAE:) encodes several structural proteins. Whether any of these also function in viral RNA synthesis is unknown. For the related mouse hepatitis coronavirus (MHV), it has been suggested that the nucleocapsid protein (N) is involved in viral RNA synthesis. As described for MHV, we established that the EAV N protein colocalizes with the viral replication complex, suggesting a role in RNA synthesis. Using an infectious cDNA clone, point mutations and deletions were engineered in the EAV genome to disrupt the expression of each of the structural genes. All structural proteins, including N, were found to be dispensable for genome replication and subgenomic mRNA transcription. We also constructed a mutant in which translation of the intraleader ORF was disrupted. This mutant had a wild-type phenotype, indicating that, at least in cell culture, the product of this ORF does not play a role in the EAV replication cycle.