cpts530, a candidate live-virus vaccine, is an attenuated strain of human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). It was derived by subjecting a cold-passaged (cp) strain of RSV to a single round of chemical mutagenesis. cpts530 is a temperature-sensitive (ts) mutant that is attenuated in mice and chimpanzees, and its ts phenotype exhibits a high level of stability during replication in both species. In the present study, the complete nucleotide sequence of cpts530 RSV was determined. The five mutations known to be present in the parent cpRSV were retained in its cpts530 derivative, and one additional nucleotide change was identified at nucleotide (nt) 10060, which resulted in a phenylalanine-to-leucine change at amino acid 521 in the large polymerase (L) protein. To determine if this single amino acid substitution was indeed responsible for the ts phenotype of cpts530, it was introduced alone or in combination with the cp mutations into the full-length cDNA clone of the wild-type A2 RSV. Analysis of infectious viruses recovered from mutant cDNAs indicated that this single mutation specified complete restriction of plaque formation of recombinant cp530 in HEp-2 cell monolayer cultures at 40 degrees C, and the level of temperature sensitivity was not influenced by the presence of the five cpRSV mutations. These findings identify the phenylalanine-to-leucine change at amino acid 521 in the L protein as the mutation that specifies the ts phenotype of cpts530. Furthermore, these findings illustrate the feasibility of using the cDNA-based recovery system to analyze and construct defined attenuated vaccine viruses.