The arenavirus, lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) has a single-stranded RNA genome composed of a large (L) and a small (S) RNA segment. The completed sequence of LCMV, presented here, reveals a formerly unknown gene (Z) on the L genomic segment. This gene is encoded in the positive or message-sense of the viral genomic RNA, whereas the adjacent gene (L) is in the genome-complementary, or negative sense. The ambisense polarity of the genes on the L RNA reiterates the polarity of genes on the small (S) genomic segment. The Z gene encodes a 10-kDa protein containing a single zinc-finger sequence (Cys2His2). A small RNA representing the message sense of the Z gene is found in infected cells and within virions. In contrast to the known LCMV proteins having structural or enzymatic functions, the predicted Z gene product is most likely to be an RNA-binding protein with a regulatory role. The encapsidation of a message sense Z RNA suggests a role for this gene immediately following virus penetration. The L/Z intergenic region is rich in cytidylic acid (C) and presents an unusual RNA structure. All cDNA clones of the intergenic region differ from each other within a certain poly(C) stretch and lack a 30-base region present in the direct RNA sequence. Finally, the completed sequence establishes that the L RNA 5' end is complementary to its 3' end. The L RNA termini, similar to the S RNA termini, have a small but potentially important asymmetry of sequence. LCMV is the first arenavirus to be completely sequenced.