In the presence of lauric acid (C12), the production of infectious vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) was inhibited in a dose-dependent manner. The inhibitory effect was reversible; after removal of C12 the antiviral effect disappeared. In addition, the chain length of the monocarboxylic acids proved to be crucial, as those with shorter or longer chains were less effective or had no antiviral activity. Concomitant with the C12-induced inhibition was the stimulation of triacylglycerol synthesis, increasing the amount up to ninefold. Analysis of the antiviral mechanism of C12 revealed that the correct assembly of the viral components was disturbed, but viral RNA and protein synthesis remained unimpaired. By cell fractionation and Western blot analysis the amount of viral M protein located in the plasma membrane was found to be markedly reduced after treatment with C12, whereas in the cytoplasm the quantity of M protein was similar to that in untreated cells. C12 did not influence M protein synthesis, but prevented the binding of M protein to the host cell membrane, where the protein plays an essential role in virus assembly. Thus, treatment of VSV-infected cells with C12 resulted in inhibition of virus release. It is suggested that the newly synthesized triacylglycerols might interact with the host cell plasma membrane and interfere with virus maturation.