Ribonucleoprotein particles isolated from extracts of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) -infected L cells synthesized in vitro four classes of polyadenylated RNA sedimenting at 29S, 19S, 17S, and 13S. When synthesized in vitro in the presence of the methyl donor S-adenosyl methionine, these RNA species contained the following 5'-terminal structures: (i) m7G5ppp5'AmpAp(70%) ; (ii) m7G5'ppp5'AmpAmpNp (20%) and (iii) pppAp (10%). In the presence of the methylation inhibitor S-adenosylhomocysteine, however, the mRNA contained the 5'-terminal structures G5'ppp5'Ap (80%) and pppAp (20%). The mRNA's synthesized in vitro were translated in the homologous ascites and the heterologous wheat embryo cell-free systems. In both, the products were shown by sodium dodecyl sulfate gel electrophoresis and by immunoprecipitation to contain all five viral proteins, L, G, N, NS, and M. The presumed precursor to the G protein (G*) was also identified by fingerprint analysis. Methylated VSV mRNA was more active in protein synthesis than unmethylated mRNA in both the ascites system and the wheat embryo systems. Addition of S-adenosylmethionine stimulated translation of unmethylated mRNA in the wheat embryo but not in the ascites extract. S-adenosylhomocysteine, however, by preventing mRNA methylation inhibited the translation of unmethylated VSV mRNA in both systems. The mRNA methylating activity present in wheat embryo S-30 extracts was recovered in the ribosome-free supernatant fraction (S-150) and was insensitive to the protein synthesis inhibitor pactamycin.