In previous studies, a mutant (cp-RSV) of the RSV A2 strain derived from 52 serial cold passages in bovine embryonic tissue culture was highly attenuated in seropositive adults and children but caused upper respiratory tract disease in seronegative infants. We investigated the genetic basis for this attenuation phenotype by comparing the complete genomic RNA sequence of this virus with the published sequence of strain A2 as well as with that of its unattenuated wild-type parent (HEK-7) virus. RNA was extracted from virions grown in tissue culture, reverse transcribed, amplified by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), cloned, and sequenced. Changes from the published A2 wild-type sequence were confirmed on independently derived cDNA clones and by direct sequencing of PCR fragments. The HEK-7 parent virus was then analyzed at these positions by direct sequencing of PCR fragments. Fifteen nucleotide differences between the published A2 wild-type virus and cp-RSV were found. None appeared to involve cis-acting RNA sequences. Of the 15 nucleotide differences, only 1 occurred outside a translational open reading frame (ORF), and 2 which did occur within ORFs were silent at the amino acid level. The remaining 12 nucleotide differences encoded amino acid changes. All 3 of the mutations which were silent at the amino acid level, and 8 of the 12 which resulted in amino acid differences, were also present in the HEK-7 parent virus and therefore were not changes acquired during the cold passages. Thus, the remaining 4 nucleotide differences and the attendant 4 amino acid changes are associated with the attenuation phenotype of the cp-RSV. Two of the changes occur in the F gene and two in the L gene. These results confirm the previously described RSV genomic sequence, provide the first sequence of a live attenuated RSV vaccine strain, provide the first sequence of an RSV strain which has been evaluated in chimpanzees and humans, and indicate that attenuation in humans of a pneumovirus can be associated with a relatively small number of nucleotide and amino acid changes.