A natural Sendai virus internal deletion defective interfering (DI) RNA, previously shown to encode a truncated NP protein and previously cloned under the control of the T7 RNA polymerase promoter, was expressed from plasmid and shown to replicate in cell tissue culture when the viral proteins NP, P, and L were coexpressed from cloned genes. The efficient replication was dependent on the total length of the RNA to be a multiple of 6 nucleotides, showing that the "rule of six" applied for a DI RNA that has conserved the end sequences of the nondefective viral RNA. Compared to the copy-back H4 DI RNA, the replication efficiency of the internal deletion DI RNA was reproducibly 20-fold lower. Reciprocal exchanges between the minus-strand 3'-end primary sequences of the two DI RNAs showed that the replication efficiency of the derivatives obtained directly correlated with the origin and the extent of the primary sequence. Moreover, some of the derivatives exhibited a replication efficiency comparable to that of the copy-back DI RNA with, however, the ability to transcribe a functional mRNA similar to the internal deletion DI RNA. This indicated that the transcription ability of a viral RNA was not sufficient to explain a low replication efficiency.