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The structure of the viral RNA (vRNA) inside intact nucleocapsids of vesicular stomatitis virus was studied by chemical probing experiments. Most of the Watson-Crick positions of the nucleotide bases of vRNA in intact virus and in nucleoprotein (N)-RNA template were accessible to the chemical probes and the phosphates were protected. This suggests that the nucleoprotein binds to the sugar-phosphate backbone of the RNA and leaves the Watson-Crick positions free for the transcription and replication activities of the viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. The same architecture has been proposed for the influenza virus nucleocapsids.