1H and 13C NMR studies on cowpea mosaic virus (CpMV) revealed that polyamines are present in the middle (M) and upper bottom (BU) components obtained by CsCl density gradient centrifugation but not in the top (T) component; the lower bottom (BL) component contains trace amounts of polyamine. Dialysis of the BL component against spermidine led to incorporation of spermidine which gave rise to NMR peaks very similar to those observed with the natural M and BU components. NMR results conclusively demonstrate that polyamines in the M and BU components of CpMV are exchangeable with cesium ions and the exchange process is pH dependent. They also provide experimental support for the hypothesis that the BU to BL conversion results from the displacement of polyamines and possibly other natural counter ions of the RNA by cesium ions [G. Bruening, (1977), In "Comprehensive Virology" (H. Fraenkel-Conrat and R. R. Wagner, eds.), Vol. 11, pp. 55-141. Plenum, New York]. No sharp peaks, attributable to mobile amino acid side chains, were seen in spectra of an intact CpMV particle or its empty protein shell (T component). 31P NMR spin-lattice relaxation time and nuclear Overhauser effect parameters, which are sensitive to high-frequency motions, suggest that the RNA and, when present, the bound polyamine undergo internal motions with correlation times in the nanosecond range.