Functional and Nonfunctional Measles Virus Matrix Genes from Lethal Human Brain Infections

Isidro Ballart, Marion Huber, Anita Schmid, Roberto Cattaneo, Martin A. Billeter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a lethal disease induced by the persistence of measles virus in the human brain. In many SSPE cases, the viral matrix (M) protein cannot be detected; in others, M proteins of the expected size are found and sequence analysis of M cDNAs has confirmed that the reading frames are intact, showing only several missense mutations. To determine whether these alterations result in nonfunctional proteins, we have replaced the M gene of an infectious full-length genomic cDNA (from vaccine strain Edmonston) with different M genes derived from four patients with SSPE. One of the SSPE M genes tested proved to be functionally competent, giving rise to a virus yielding titers similar to those of viruses containing the M gene from control lytic strains. The other three SSPE M genes were not functionally competent in the same test. In all three cases, the inactivating changes resided in the carboxyl-terminal half of the M protein, as shown by the exchange of either of the two gene halves. In summary, mutational M gene alterations, which either prevent synthesis of M protein altogether or only allow synthesis of nonfunctional M protein, have been detected by us and by others in 9 of 10 SSPE cases. The one functional M gene appears to be an exception to the rule, indicating that M gene alteration might not be an absolute requirement for disease development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3161-3166
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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