Molecular clones of infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), derived from the Vero cell adapted Beaudette strain, were constructed, using an in vitro assembly method. In vitro transcribed RNA from a cDNA template that had been constructed from seven cDNA fragments, encompassing the entire genome of IBV, was electroporated into BHK-21 cells. The cells were overlaid onto the susceptible Vero cells and viable virus was recovered from the molecular clone. The molecularly cloned IBV (MIBV) demonstrated growth kinetics, and plaque size and morphology that resembled the parental Beaudette strain IBV. The recombinant virus was further manipulated to express enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) by replacing an open reading frame (ORF) of the group-specific gene, ORF 5a, with the EGFP ORF. The rescued recombinant virus, expressing EGFP (GIBV), replicated to lower viral titers and formed smaller plaques compared to the parental virus and the MIBV. After six passages of GIBV, a minority of plaques were observed that had reverted to the larger plaque size and virus from these plaques no longer expressed EGFP. Direct sequencing of RT-PCR products derived from cells infected with the plaque-purified virus, which had lost expression of EGFP, confirmed loss of the EGFP ORF. The loss of EGFP expression (Delta5a IBV) was also accompanied by reversion to growth kinetics resembling the standard virus and intact recombinant virus. This study demonstrates that the 5a ORF is not essential for viral multiplication in Vero cells.