The genome of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) consists of two negative-sense single-stranded RNA segments, designated L and S. Both segments contain two viral genes in an ambisense coding strategy, with the genes being separated by an intergenic region (IGR). We have developed a reverse genetic system that allows the investigation of cis-acting signals and trans-acting factors involved in transcription and replication of LCMV. To this end, we constructed an LCMV S minigenome consisting of a negative-sense copy of the chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) reporter gene flanked upstream by the S 5' untranslated region (UTR) and IGR and downstream by the S 3' UTR. CAT expression was detected in LCMV-infected cells transfected with the minigenome RNA. Intracellular coexpression of the LCMV minigenome and LCMV L and NP proteins supplied from cotransfected plasmids driven by the T7 RNA polymerase provided by the recombinant vaccinia virus vTF7-3 resulted in high levels of CAT activity and synthesis of subgenomic CAT mRNA and antiminigenome RNA species. Thus, L and NP represent the minimal viral trans-acting factors required for efficient RNA synthesis mediated by LCMV polymerase.