Infection of newborn mice with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) results in a lifelong persistent infection. Persistently infected animals continuously produce low levels of infectious virus and accumulate large amounts of intracellular viral nucleic acid (P. J. Southern, P. Blount, and M. B. A. Oldstone, Nature [London] 312:555-558, 1984). We have used gel electrophoresis and hybridization techniques to analyze viral RNAs that appear during the establishment and maintenance of a persistent LCMV infection in vivo to identify any role for defective and/or defective interfering RNAs. We have found a complex, heterogeneously sized population of viral RNAs in multiple independent tissues that is uniquely associated with persistent infections in vivo, but we have not yet established whether these RNAs have a causal or a consequential association with persistent infection by LCMV. Within the complex virus RNA population, full-length genomic L and S RNAs were readily detectable and represented the most abundant individual viral RNA species. RNAs apparently corresponding in size to the viral nucleoprotein and glycoprotein mRNAs could also be detected in these tissue RNA samples. The presence of glycoprotein mRNA indicates a potential mechanism of posttranscriptional regulation to account for the previously documented restriction in viral glycoprotein expression in persistently infected mice (M. B. A. Oldstone and M. J. Buchmeier, Nature (London) 300:360-362, 1982).