Feline calicivirus (FCV) is a positive-strand, nonenveloped RNA virus in the family Caliciviridae. A cDNA library of the Urbana (URB) strain of FCV was generated and the sequence of the genome was determined from overlapping clones except for 13 bases from the 5'-end. The 5'-end sequence was identified by analysis of clones derived by RT-PCR across the ligated 5'- and 3'-ends of the RNA genome. A full-length cDNA clone of the RNA genome of the URB strain was constructed and placed downstream of the T7 RNA polymerase promoter and RNA transcripts generated in vitro from this clone were infectious when introduced into feline kidney cells. A virus-encoded genome-linked protein, VpG, which is considered to be essential for infectivity of wild-type genomic FCV RNA, was not required for the initiation of FCV infection by the synthetic transcripts. However, the addition of a cap structure analog (m7G(5')ppp(5')G) during in vitro transcription of the synthetic RNA was necessary for successful virus recovery. Two silent mutations engineered into the full-length clone were identified in the genomic RNA from recovered progeny virus. This system of introducing site-specific genetic changes into the genome of feline calicivirus and the recovery of infectious mutant viruses will enable studies related to the molecular basis for replication, growth restriction, and pathogenicity of this and other members of the Caliciviridae.