The principal RNA species isolated from labeled preparations of the arenavirus Pichinde usually include a large viral RNA species L (apparent molecular weight = 3.2 X 10(6)), and a smaller viral RNA species S (apparent molecular weight = 1.6 X 10(6)). In addition, either little or considerable quantities of 28S rRNA as well as 18S rRNA can also be obtained in virus extracts, depending on the virus stock and growth conditions used to generate virus preparations. Similar RNA species have been identified in RNA extracted from Tacaribe and Tamiami arenavirus preparations. Oligonucleotide fingerprint analyses have confirmed the host ribosomal origin of the 28S and 18S species. Such analyses have also indicated that the Pichinde viral L and S RNA species each contain unique nucleotide sequences. Viral RNA preparations isolated by conventional phenol-sodium dodecyl sulfate extraction often have much of their L and S RNA species in the form of aggregates as visualized by either electron microscopy or oligonucleotide fingerprinting of material recovered from the top of gels (run by using undenatured RNA preparations). Circular and linear RNA forms have also been seen in electron micrographs of undenatured RNA preparations, although denatured viral RNA preparations have yielded mostly linear RNA species with few RNA aggregates or circular forms.