The attachment of high multiplicities of Sindbis virus to tissue-cultured cells followed by brief treatment at low pH has been shown to produce cell fusion (fusion from without). In this report, experiments to determine the effects of low pH on the physical and biological properties of Sindbis virus are described. Exposure of purified Sindbis virions to mildly acidic conditions resulted in a rapid and irreversible alteration in particle density and sedimentation characteristics, followed by a slower loss of infectivity. Infectivity was not restored by a return to neutral pH; rather, the loss of virus infectivity seemed to be initiated by exposure to low pH but continued at neutral pH. The formation of a virus-cell complex in which virions were attached to the cell surface protected the particles from low-pH inactivation, although low pH could still expose virus functions responsible for cell fusion. Low pH was found to induce a conformational change in the E2 polypeptide of the intact virion. These results are discussed with respect to the process of Sindbis virus infection of tissue-cultured cells.