Cells infected with mammalian reoviruses often contain large perinuclear inclusion bodies, or "factories," where viral replication and assembly are thought to occur. Here, we report a viral strain difference in the morphology of these inclusions filamentous inclusions formed in cells infected with reovirus type 1 Lang (T1L), whereas globular inclusions formed in cells infected with our laboratory's isolate of reovirus type 3 Dearing (T3D). Examination by immunofluorescence microscopy revealed the filamentous inclusions to be colinear with microtubules (MTs). The filamentous distribution was dependent on an intact MT network, as depolymerization of MTs early after infection caused globular inclusions to form. The inclusion phenotypes of T1L x T3D reassortant viruses identified the viral M1 genome segment as the primary genetic determinant of the strain difference in inclusion morphology. Filamentous inclusions were seen with 21 of 22 other reovirus strains, including an isolate of T3D obtained from another laboratory. When the mu2 proteins derived from T1L and the other laboratory's T3D isolate were expressed after transfection of their cloned M1 genes, they associated with filamentous structures that colocalized with MTs, whereas the mu2 protein derived from our laboratory's T3D isolate did not. MTs were stabilized in cells infected with the viruses that induced filamentous inclusions and after transfection with the M1 genes derived from those viruses. Evidence for MT stabilization included bundling and hyperacetylation of alpha-tubulin, changes characteristically seen when MT-associated proteins (MAPs) are overexpressed. Sequencing of the M1 segments from the different T1L and T3D isolates revealed that a single-amino-acid difference at position 208 correlated with the inclusion morphology. Two mutant forms of mu2 with the changes Pro-208 to Ser in a background of T1L mu2 and Ser-208 to Pro in a background of T3D mu2 had MT association phenotypes opposite to those of the respective wild-type proteins. We conclude that the mu2 protein of most reovirus strains is a viral MAP and that it plays a key role in the formation and structural organization of reovirus inclusion bodies.