Replication of encephalomyocarditis virus and its cytopathic effects were studied in myelinated cultures of dorsal root ganglia obtained from newborn mice. Six hours after infection virus progeny was detected in the culture. At 24 h the virus titer reached 2 times 10(6) PFU per culture and remained at this level until 48 h. The first cytopathic alterations began at 24 h and consisted of rounding of Schwann and satellites cells and their detachment from neurons. Later, bead-like swellings of the myelin appeared along the axons followed by splitting and degeneration of lamellae. The cytopathic effect in the neurons started 29 h after infection, reaching complete neuronolysis at 48 h. Virus particles, scattered or arranged in crystal-like aggregates, were first seen in the cytoplasm of glial cells and then in neurons and axons.