Replication complexes are membrane-bound cytoplasmic vacuoles involved in rubella virus (RV) replication. These structures can be identified by their characteristic morphology at the electron microscopy (EM) level and by their association with double-stranded (ds) RNA in immunogold labeling EM studies. Although these virus-induced structures bear some resemblance to lysosomes, their exact nature and origin are unknown. In this study, the localization of two lysosomal markers, lysosomal-associated membrane protein (Lamp-1) and acid phosphatase, relative to the replication complexes was examined by light and electron microscopy. Confocal microscopy using antibodies to dsRNA and Lamp-1 showed colocalization of these two markers in the cytoplasm of RV-infected cells. Immunogold labeling EM studies using antibodies to Lamp-1 confirmed that Lamp-1 was associated with RV replication complexes. EM histochemical studies demonstrated the presence of acid phosphatase in the vacuoles of RV replication complexes. Taken together, these studies show that RV replication complexes are virus-modified lysosomes.