Primer extension analysis was used to determine the presence of RNAs 4A and 5 in tomato aspermy virus (TAV) and both subgroups of cucumber mosaic virus (CMV). RNAs 4A and 5 were detected in TAV and all CMV strains (representative of both subgroups) that were analysed, except for one subgroup I CMV strain which lacked detectable RNA 5. In subgroup II CMV strains the RNA 5 population was found to consist of two sequence variants. Comparison of the RNA 5 sequences from TAV and CMV indicated that TAV and subgroup II CMV RNA 5 share a much greater degree of sequence similarity than either has with subgroup I RNA 5. RNA 4A and the encoded 2b protein appear to be unique to the cucumovirus genus of the tripartite viruses, which share an otherwise common genome structure, and may have played a role in the evolutionary origin of this genus.