Although host protein synthesis is preferentially inhibited, there is a steady decline in the ability of Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells infected with vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) to synthesize both host and viral proteins. We previously reported finding an mRNA-ribonucleoprotein particle (mRNP) that contained all five VSV mRNAs and viral N protein exclusively. This particle apparently regulates translation by sequestering a majority of the VSV mRNA made late in infection and thus rendering it unavailable for protein synthesis. In the present investigation the mRNP was also shown to inhibit in vitro protein synthesis in rabbit reticulocyte and wheat germ lysates programmed with mRNA isolated from VSV-infected cells. The synthesis of the elF-2·GTP·Met·tRNA (ternary) complex, the first step in initiation of protein synthesis, was markedly inhibited by the mRNP. The inhibition was partially reversed by addition of purified eIF-2 to the inhibited lysate or ternary complex formation reaction. These results indicate a dual role of the mRNP in regulating protein synthesis during infection. Nucleocapsid also inhibited in vitro protein synthesis, although this inhibition was not reversed by eIF-2. Nucleocapsid did not inhibit ternary complex formation in vitro. Consequently, nucleocapsid may also regulate in vivo protein synthesis, but by a mechanism different from the mRNP.