RNA-dependent RNA and DNA polymerases have a conserved segment, Tyr-X-Asp-Asp (G. Karmer and P. Argos, Nucleic Acids Res. 12:7269-7282, 1984). To investigate the function of this segment, we changed the Gly residue at position 357 in the conserved sequence Tyr-356-Gly-357-Asp-358-Asp-359 of the replicase of RNA coliphage Q beta to Ala, Ser, Pro, Met, or Val and examined the replicase activity in vivo. Cells carrying the variant plasmids lost the replicase activity and severely inhibited the proliferation of phage Q beta (group III) and related phage SP (group IV) by suppressing phage RNA synthesis. In contrast, substitution of the Gly residue at 390 showed only a slight inhibitory effect, although replicase activity was also lost. These results suggest that the cells harboring an altered replicase at the conserved segment can interfere specifically with the wild-type phage and different but related phage infections.