© The Author(s) 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research. The unconventional mRNA capping enzyme (GDP polyribonucleotidyltransferase, PRNTase; block V) domain in RNA polymerase L proteins of non-segmented negative strand (NNS) RNA viruses (e.g. rabies, measles, Ebola) contains five collinear sequence elements, Rx(3)Wx(3-8)ΦxGxζx(P/A) (motif A; Φ, hydrophobic; ζ, hydrophilic), (Y/W)ΦGSxT (motif B), W (motif C), HR (motif D) and ζxxΦx(F/Y)QxxΦ (motif E). We performed site-directed mutagenesis of the L protein of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV, a prototypic NNS RNA virus) to examine participation of these motifs in mRNA capping. Similar to the catalytic residues in motif D, G1100 in motif A, T1157 in motif B, W1188 in motif C, and F1269 and Q1270 in motif E were found to be essential or important for the PRNTase activity in the step of the covalent L-pRNA intermediate formation, but not for the GTPase activity that generates GDP (pRNA acceptor). Cap defective mutations in these residues induced termination of mRNA synthesis at position +40 followed by aberrant stop-start transcription, and abolished virus gene expression in host cells. These results suggest that the conserved motifs constitute the active site of the PRNTase domain and the L-pRNA intermediate formation followed by the cap formation is essential for successful synthesis of full-length mRNAs.