Resistance of simian virus 40 (SV40) DNA to cleavage by Hemophilus parainfluenzae II (HpaII) restriction endonuclease has been used as a positive, in vitro selection for mutants lacking the one HpaII endonuclease-cleavage site of wild-type SV40 DNA. Each of 10 viable mutants isolated by this procedure multiplies significantly more slowly than wild-type virus and contains a small deletion (80 to 190 base pairs in size) of the region of the genome that includes the HpaII endonuclease-recognition sequence. These well-defined mutants, having a selective disadvantage for growth, would not have been readily obtained by conventional methods used to screen for viral mutants. Therefore, in certain circumstances, restriction endonucleases are effective reagents for the selection of new classes of mutants. Because these small deletions can be visualized in heteroduplexes, these mutants provide internal markers for mapping other alterations or features of the simian virus 40 genome.