Reoviruses isolated from persistently infected cultures (PI viruses) can grow in the presence of ammonium chloride, a weak base that blocks acid-dependent proteolysis of viral outer-capsid proteins during viral entry into cells. We used reassortant viruses isolated from crosses of wild-type (wt) reovirus strain, type 1 Lang, and three independent PI viruses, L/C, PI 2A1, and PI 3-1, to identify viral genes that segregate with the capacity of PI viruses to grow in cells treated with ammonium chloride. Growth of reassortant viruses in ammonium chloride-treated cells segregated with the S1 gene of L/C and the S4 gene of PI 2A1 and PI 3-1. The S1 gene encodes viral attachment protein sigma1, and the S4 gene encodes outer-capsid protein sigma3. To identify mutations in sigma3 selected during persistent reovirus infection, we determined the S4 gene nucleotide sequences of L/C, PI 2A1, PI 3-1, and four additional PI viruses. The deduced amino acid sequences of sigma3 protein of six of these PI viruses contained a tyrosine-to-histidine substitution at residue 354. To determine whether mutations selected during persistent infection alter cleavage of the viral outer capsid, the fate of viral structural proteins was assessed by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis after treatment of virions of wt and PI viruses with chymotrypsin in vitro. Proteolysis of PI virus outer-capsid proteins sigma3 and mu1C occurred with faster kinetics than proteolysis of wt virus outer-capsid proteins. These results demonstrate that mutations in either the S1 or S4 gene alter acid-dependent disassembly of the reovirus outer capsid and suggest that increased efficiency of proteolysis of viral outer-capsid proteins is important for maintenance of persistent reovirus infections of cultured cells.