In order to establish infections, viruses must be delivered to the cells of potential hosts and must then engage in activities that enable their genomes to be expressed and replicated. With most viruses, the events that precede the onset of production of progeny virus particles are referred to as the early events and, in the case of positive–strand RNA viruses, they include the initial interaction with, and the entry of, host cells and the release (uncoating) of the genome from the virus particles. Though the early events remain one of the more poorly understood areas of plant virology, the virus with which most of the relevant research has been performed is tobacco mosaic virus (TMV). In spite of this effort, there remains much uncertainty about the form or constituent of the virus that actually enters the initially invaded cell in a plant and about the mechanism(s) that trigger the subsequent uncoating (virion disassembly) reactions. A variety of approaches have been used in attempts to determine the fate of TMV particles that are involved in the establishment of an infection and these are briefly described in this review. In some recent work, it has been proposed that the uncoating process involves the bidirectional release of coat protein subunits from the viral RNA and that these activities may be mediated by cotranslational and coreplicational disassembly mechanisms.