A 15-nucleotide (nt) unstructured RNA with an initiation site but lacking a promoter could direct the initiation of RNA synthesis by the brome mosaic virus (BMV) replicase in vitro. However, BMV RNA with a functional initiation site but a mutated promoter could not initiate RNA synthesis either in vitro or in vivo. To explain these two observations, we hypothesize that RNA structures that cannot function as promoters could prevent RNA synthesis by the BMV RNA replicase. We documented that four different nonpromoter stem-loops can inhibit RNA synthesis from an initiation-competent RNA sequence in vitro. Destabilizing these structures increased RNA synthesis. However, RNA synthesis was restored in full only when a BMV RNA promoter element was added in cis. Competition assays to examine replicase–RNA interactions showed that the structured RNAs have a lower affinity for the replicase than do RNAs lacking stable structures or containing a promoter element. The results characterize another potential mechanism whereby the BMV replicase can specifically recognize BMV RNAs.