cDNAs encoding the G glycoprotein of respiratory syncytial virus and the hemagglutinin-neuraminidase (HN) glycoprotein of parainfluenza virus type 3 were modified by site-specific mutagenesis and restriction fragment replacement to encode chimeric proteins consisting of the cytoplasmic and transmembrane domains of one protein fused to the ectodomain of the other. In the case of the HN ectodomain attached to the G transmembrane and cytoplasmic domains, cell surface expression of the chimera was reduced. Otherwise, the presence of the heterologous transmembrane and cytoplasmic domains had little effect on the processing of the HN or G ectodomain, as assayed by the acquisition of N-linked and O-linked carbohydrates, transport to the cell surface and, in the case of HN, folding, oligomerization, and hemadsorption activity. These results showed that the synthesis and processing of each ectodomain did not require the homologous transmembrane and cytoplasmic domains. In particular, O glycosylation of the G protein was specified fully by its ectodomain, even though this domain is highly divergent among the respiratory syncytial virus antigenic subgroups. In addition, whereas the cytoplasmic and transmembrane domains of the G protein were relatively highly conserved, they were nonetheless fully replaceable without significantly affecting processing.