Targeted RNA recombination has proven to be a powerful tool for the genetic engineering of the coronavirus genome, particularly in its 3' part. Here we describe procedures for the generation of recombinant and mutant mouse hepatitis virus and feline infectious peritonitis virus. Key to the two-step method is the efficient selection of recombinant viruses based on host cell switching. The first step consists of the preparation---using this selection principle--of an interspecies chimeric coronavirus. In this virus the ectodomain of the spike glycoprotein is replaced by that of a coronavirus with a different species tropism. In the second step this chimeric virus is used as the recipient for recombination with synthetic donor RNA carrying the original spike gene. Recombinant viruses are then isolated on the basis of their regained natural (e.g., murine or feline) cell tropism. Additional mutations created in the donor RNA can be co-incorporated into the recombinant virus in order to generate mutant viruses.