To better understand mechanisms of persistent rotavirus infections of cultured cells, we established independent, persistently infected cultures of MA104 cells, using rotavirus strain SA11. The cultures were either passaged when the cells reached confluence or supplemented with fresh medium every 7 days. Viral titers in culture lysates varied from 10(4) to 10(7) PFU per ml during 350 days of culture maintenance. Trypan blue staining indicated that 72 to 100% of cells in the cultures were viable, and immunocytochemical staining using a monoclonal antibody directed against viral protein VP6 demonstrated that 38 to 63% of the cells contained rotavirus antigen. We tested the capacity of rotaviruses isolated from the persistently infected cultures (PI viruses) to infect cells cured of persistent infection. Although wild-type (wt) and PI viruses produced equivalent yields in parental MA104 cells, PI viruses produced greater yields than wt virus in cured cells, which indicates that viruses and cells coevolve during persistent rotavirus infections of MA104 cells. To determine whether mutations in viruses and cells selected during these persistent infections affect viral entry, we tested the effect of trypsin treatment of the viral inoculum on growth of wt and PI viruses. Trypsin pretreatment is required for postattachment penetration of rotavirus virions into cells. In contrast to the case with wt virus, PI viruses produced equivalent yields with and without trypsin pretreatment in parental MA104 cells. However, PI viruses required trypsin pretreatment for efficient growth in cured cells. These results indicate that mutant viruses and cells are selected during maintenance of persistent rotavirus infections of MA104 cells and suggest that mutations in each affect trypsin-dependent steps in rotavirus entry.