The role of the negative-stranded virus accessory C proteins is difficult to assess because they appear sometimes as nonessential and thereby of no function. On the other hand, when a function is found, as in the case of Sendai virus, it represents an enigma, in that the C proteins inhibit replication under conditions where the infection follows an exponential course. Furthermore, this inhibitory function is exerted differentially: in contrast to the replication of internal deletion defective interfering (DI) RNAs, that of copy-back DI RNAs appears to escape inhibition, under certain experimental conditions (in vivo assay). In a reexamination of the C effect by the reverse genetics approach, it was found that copy-back RNA replication is inhibited by C in vivo as well, under conditions where the ratio of C to copy-back template is increased. This effect can be reversed by an increase in P but not L protein. The "rule of six" was differentially observed in the presence or absence of C. Finally, a difference in the ability of the replicating complex to tolerate promoter modifications in RNA synthesis initiation was shown to occur in the presence or the absence of C as well. We propose that C acts by increasing the selectivity of the replicating complex for the promoter cis-acting elements governing its activity. The inhibitory effect of C becomes the price to pay for this increased selectivity.