A full-length cDNA clone of rice yellow mottle sobemovirus (RYMV) was synthesized and placed adjacent to a bacteriophage T7 RNA polymerase promoter sequence. Capped-RNA transcripts produced in vitro were infectious when mechanically inoculated onto rice plants (Oryza sativa L). Individual full-length clones varied in their degree of infectivity but all were less infectious than native viral RNA. A representative clone, designated RYMV-FL5, caused a disease phenotype identical to that produced by viral RNA except that symptoms were somewhat slower to appear than those induced by viral RNA. The infectivity of RYMV-FL5 was verified by ELISA, Western blot analysis, Northern blot hybridization, RT-PCR, and Southern blot hybridization. Frameshift and deletion mutations introduced into the coat protein cistron demonstrated that the coat protein was dispensable for RNA replication in rice protoplasts. However, the coat protein was required for full infectivity in rice plants, presumably by playing a role in phloem-mediated long-distance movement and possibly in cell-to-cell movement.