Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is an important human pathogen. Its nucleocapsid (NC), which comprises the negative sense RNA viral genome coated by the viral nucleoprotein N, is a critical assembly that serves as template for both mRNA synthesis and genome replication. We have previously described the X-ray structure of an NC-like structure: a decameric ring formed of N-RNA that mimics one turn of the helical NC. In the absence of experimental data we had hypothesized that the NC helix would be right-handed, as the N–N contacts in the ring appeared to more easily adapt to that conformation. We now unambiguously show that the RSV NC is a lefthanded helix. We further show that the contacts in the ring can be distorted to maintain key N–Nprotein interactions in a left-handed helix, and discuss the implications of the resulting atomic model of the helical NC for viral replication and transcription.