Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) is an arterivirus that emerged in the late 1980s in both Europe and North America as the causative agent of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), now the most important disease of swine worldwide. Despite extensive characterization of PRRSV proteins by direct analysis and comparison with other arteriviruses, determinants of virulence, pathogenesis and protective immune recognition remain poorly understood. Thus, we hypothesized that additional ORFs are present in the PRRSV genome that may contribute to its biological properties, and so we screened highly purified virions of strain VR2332, the prototype type 2 PRRSV, for evidence of novel polypeptides. A 51 aa polypeptide was discovered that is encoded by an alternative ORF of the subgenomic mRNA encoding the major envelope glycoprotein, GP5, and which is incorporated into virions. The protein, referred to as ORF5a protein, is expressed in infected cells, and pigs infected with PRRSV express anti-ORF5a protein antibodies. A similar ORF is present as an alternative reading frame in all PRRSV subgenomic RNA5 genes and in all other arteriviruses, suggesting that this ORF5a protein plays a significant role in arterivirology. Its discovery also provides a new potential target for immunological and pharmacological intervention in PRRS.