Flock house virus (FHV) is a small icosahedral insect virus of the family Nodaviridae. Its genome consists of two messenger-sense RNA molecules, both of which are encapsidated in the same particle. RNA1 (3.1 kb) encodes proteins required for viral RNA replication; RNA2 (1.4 kb) encodes protein alpha (43 kDa), the precursor of the coat protein. When Spodoptera frugiperda cells were infected with a recombinant baculovirus containing a cDNA copy of RNA2, coat protein alpha assembled into viruslike precursor particles (provirions) that matured normally by autocatalytic cleavage of protein alpha into polypeptide chains beta (38 kDa) and gamma (5 kDa). The particles were morphologically indistinguishable from authentic FHV and contained RNA derived from the coat protein message. These results showed that RNA1 was required neither for virion assembly nor for maturation of provirions. Expression of mutants in which Asn-363 at the beta-gamma cleavage site of protein alpha was replaced by either aspartate, threonine, or alanine resulted in assembly of particles that were cleavage defective. For two of the mutants, unusual structural features were observed after preparation for electron microscopy. Particles containing Asp at position 363 were labile and showed a strong tendency to break into half-shells. Particles in which Asn-363 was replaced by Ala displayed a distinct hole in an otherwise complete shell. The third mutant, containing Thr at position 363, was indistinguishable in morphology from authentic FHV.