The NS5A protein of hepatitis C virus (HCV) plays an important but undefined role in viral RNA replication. NS5A has been proposed to be a three-domain protein, and the crystal structure of the well-conserved amino-terminal domain I has been determined. The remaining two domains of NS5A, designated domains II and III, and their corresponding interdomain regions are poorly understood. We have conducted a detailed mutagenesis analysis of NS5A domains II and III using the genotype 1b HCV replicon system. The majority of the mutants containing 15 small (8- to 15-amino-acid) deletions analyzed were capable of efficient RNA replication. Only five deletion mutations yielded lethal phenotypes, and these were colinear, spanning a 56-amino-acid region within domain II. This region was further analyzed by combining triple and single alanine scanning mutagenesis to identify individual residues required for RNA replication. Based upon this analysis, 23 amino acids were identified that were found to be essential. In addition, two residues were identified that yielded a small colony phenotype while possessing only a moderate defect in RNA replication. These results indicate that the entire domain III region and large portions of domain II of the NS5A protein are not required for the function of NS5A in HCV RNA replication.