An arginine-rich RNA-binding motif (ARM) found at the N-proximal region of Brome mosaic virus (BMV) coat protein (CP) adopts alpha-helical conformation and shares homology with CPs of plant and insect RNA viruses, HIV-Rev and Tat proteins, bacterial antiterminators, and ribosomal splicing factors. The ARM of BMV CP, consisting of amino acids 9 through 21 with six arginine residues, is essential for RNA binding and subsequent packaging. In this study analysis of the alpha-helical contents of wild-type and mutant peptides by circular dichroism spectra identified protein determinants required for such conformation. Electrophoretic mobility-shift assays between viral RNA and BMV CP peptides with either proline or alanine substitutions revealed that the interaction is nonspecific. Expression in vivo of mature full-length BMV CP subunits, having the same substitutions for each arginine within the ARM, derived from biologically active clones was found to be competent to assemble into infectious virions and cause visible symptom phenotypes in whole plants. However, analysis of virion progeny RNA profiles of CP variants and subsequent in vitro reassembly assays between mutant CP and four BMV RNAs unveiled the ability of arginine residues at positions 10, 13, or 14 of the ARM to confer selective packaging of BMV RNA4. Thus, BMV CP contains determinants that specifically interact with RNA4 to ensure selective packaging.