We have used an infectious cDNA clone of equine arteritis virus (EAV) and reverse genetics technology to further characterize the neutralization determinants in the GP5 envelope glycoprotein of the virus. We generated a panel of 20 recombinant viruses, including 10 chimeric viruses that each contained the ORF5 (which encodes GP5) of different laboratory, field, and vaccine strains of EAV, a chimeric virus containing the N-terminal ectodomain of GP5 of a European strain of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus, and 9 mutant viruses with site-specific substitutions in their GP5 proteins. The neutralization phenotype of each recombinant chimeric/mutant strain of EAV was determined with EAV-specific monoclonal antibodies and EAV strain-specific polyclonal equine antisera and compared to that of their parental viruses from which the substituted ORF5 was derived. The data unequivocally confirm that the GP5 ectodomain contains critical determinants of EAV neutralization. Furthermore, individual neutralization sites are conformationally interactive, and the interaction of GP5 with the unglycosylated membrane protein M is likely critical to expression of individual epitopes in neutralizing conformation. Substitution of individual amino acids within the GP5 ectodomain usually resulted in differences in neutralization phenotype of the recombinant viruses, analogous to differences in the neutralization phenotype of field strains of EAV and variants generated during persistent infection of EAV carrier stallions.