Abstract A puzzling aspect of replication of bacteriophage Q β RNA has always been that replicase binds at an internal segment, the M-site, some 1450 nt away from the 3′ end. Here, we report on the existence of a long-range pseudoknot, base-pairing eight nt in the loop of the 3′ terminal hairpin to a single-stranded interdomain sequence located about 1200 nt upstream, close to the internal replicase binding site. Introduction of a single mismatch into this pseudoknot is sufficient to abolish replication, but the inhibition is fully reversed by a second-site substitution that restores the pairing. The pseudoknot is part of an elaborate structure that seems to hold the 3′ end in a fixed position vis a vis the replicase binding site. Our results imply that the shape of the RNA confers the functonality. We discuss the possible relevance of our findings for replication of other viral RNAs.