Rabies virus is a negative-strand RNA virus. Its RNA genome is condensed by the viral nucleoprotein (N), and it is this N-RNA complex that is the template for transcription and replication by the viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase complex. Here we discuss structural and functional aspects of viral transcription and replication based on the atomic structure of a recombinant rabies virus N-RNA complex. We situate available biochemical data on N-RNA interactions with viral and cellular factors in the structural framework with regard to their implications for transcription and replication. Finally, we compare the structure of the rabies virus nucleoprotein with the structures of the nucleoproteins of vesicular stomatitis virus, Borna disease virus and influenza virus, highlighting potential similarities between these virus families.