We constructed full-length cDNA clones of Sindbis virus that can be transcribed in vitro by SP6 RNA polymerase to produce infectious genome-length transcripts. Viruses produced from in vitro transcripts are identical to Sindbis virus and show strain-specific phenotypes reflecting the source of RNA used for cDNA synthesis. The cDNA clones were used to confirm the mapping of the causal mutation of ts2 to the capsid protein. A general strategy for mapping Sindbis virus mutations is described and was used to identify two lethal mutations in an original full-length construct which did not produced infectious transcripts. An XbaI linker was inserted in the cDNA clone near the transcriptional start of the subgenomic mRNA; the resulting virus retains the XbaI recognition sequence, thus providing formal evidence that viruses are derived from in vitro transcripts of cDNA clones. The potential applications of the cDNA clones are discussed.