Sindbis virus-infected baby hamster kidney (BHK) cells were analysed in surface replicas or conventional thin sections after specific immunolabelling with antiviral glycoprotein antibodies in conjunction with colloidal gold-conjugated protein A. Newly synthesized viral glycoproteins were detected, beginning 1 1/2 h after infection, while the virus maturation started 3 h after infection. The glycoproteins appeared to be inserted on the plasma membrane in large spots located mainly in the central area of the cells: no clustering of the labelling was detected. Later, the glycoproteins appeared to arrange linearly in regions in the medial portion of the cells. No labelling was found in the peripheral area or on the cell edges. A drastic change in the surface labelling was detected following the commencement of virus maturation: gold particles were organized mostly in small clusters, each labelling a budding virus. Very few glycoproteins appeared not to be involved in budding figures. The maturation of the virus was clearly regionalized, but during this time it also involved the peripheral area and the cell edges; preferential budding in narrow cellular processes was often observed. It appeared thus that either isolated glycoproteins soon after infection, or clustered glycoproteins at later times, are strictly regionalized on the plasma membrane: however, the early post-infection distribution is clearly different from that seen later during virus maturation. Our experiments support the concept of discrete plasma membrane domains even in cells that do not display distinct specialization of their surface.