Cryoelectron microscopy and three-dimensional image reconstruction analysis has been used to determine the structure of native and in vitro assembled cowpea chlorotic mottle virus (CCMV) virions and capsids to 25-A resolution. Purified CCMV coat protein was used in conjunction with in vitro transcribed viral RNAs to assemble RNA 1 only, RNA 2 only, RNA 3/4 only, and empty (RNA lacking) virions. The image reconstructions demonstrate that the in vitro assembled CCMV virions are morphologically indistinguishable from native virions purified from infected plants. The viral RNA (vRNA) is packaged similarly within the different types of virions. The centers of all assembled particles are generally devoid of density and the vRNA packs against the interior surface of the virion shell. The vRNA appears to adopt an ordered conformation at each of the quasi-threefold axes.