La Crosse virus infection of BHK cells leads to a dramatic shutoff of not only host protein synthesis but also viral protein synthesis later in infection. This shutoff can be accounted for by the loss of the cytoplasmic cellular and viral mRNAs. The induction of mRNA instability requires extensive virus replication, since when cycloheximide is added early in infection the preexisting viral and cellular mRNAs do not decrease upon incubation of the cultures. Pretreatment of the cultures with actinomycin D does not affect the ability of La Crosse virus infection to induce mRNA instability, and examination of the rRNAs shows no evidence of specific degradation due to activation of the interferon-associated latent RNase. The induction of mRNA instability therefore does not appear to operate through an interferon pathway. Viral mRNA synthesis, on the other hand, is not turned off during infection, and the cap-dependent endonuclease involved in viral mRNA initiation may be responsible for the mRNA instability.