Defective translation of measles virus matrix protein in a subacute sclerosing panencephalitis cell line
Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a slowly progressing fatal human disease of the central nervous system (CNS) that is associated with measles virus persistence. Virus nucleocapsids are present in the brain1,2 and the patient is in a state of hyperimmunization towards this agent. However, although all other structural polypeptides are recognized by the immune system, there is a markedly decreased antibody response towards virus matrix or membrane protein3,4. Matrix protein has not been detected in brain cells5 and infectious virus is not present. The absence of this virus structural polypeptide is thought to account for the apparent restriction in virus maturation both in vivo and in vitro. SSPE viruses can only rarely be rescued from brain tissue by co-cultivation or cell fusion techniques using tissue culture cell lines susceptible to measles virus infection6. Often this procedure fails to yield a lytic budding virus but produces instead a carrier cell line in which the agent is cell associated. These lines (known as SSPE cell lines) also do not contain matrix protein7,8. However, the reason for this deficiency is unknown. We have therefore now examined an SSPE cell line which does not yield infectious virus in order to define this process further. We found that although messenger RNA for membrane protein was present, it was unable to form normal matrix protein in translation reactions.