We have investigated the genetic determinants responsible for the filamentous morphology of influenza A viruses, a property characteristic of primary virus isolates. A plasmid-based reverse genetics system was used to transfer the M segment of influenza A/Udorn/72 (H3N2) virus into influenza A/WSN/33 (H1N1) virus. While WSN virions display spherical morphology, recombinant WSN-Mud virus acquired the ability of the parental Udorn strain to form filamentous virus particles. This was determined by immunofluorescence studies in infected MDCK cells and by electron microscopy of purified virus particles. To determine the gene product within the M segment responsible for filamentous virus morphology, we generated four recombinant viruses carrying different sets of M1 and M2 genes from WSN or Udorn strains in a WSN background. These studies revealed that the M1 gene of Udorn, independently of the origin of the M2 gene, conferred filamentous budding properties and filamentous virus morphology to the recombinant viruses. We also constructed two WSN viruses encoding chimeric M1 proteins containing the amino-terminal 1-162 amino acids or the carboxy-terminal 163-252 amino acids of the Udorn M1 protein. Neither of these two viruses acquired filamentous phenotypes, indicating that both amino- and carboxyterminal domains of the M1 protein contribute to filamentous virus morphology. We next rescued seven mutant WSN-M1 ud viruses containing Udorn M1 proteins carrying single amino acid substitutions corresponding to the seven amino acid differences with the M1 protein of WSN virus. Characterization of these recombinant viruses revealed that amino acid residues 95 and 204 are critical in determining filamentous virus particle formation.