We describe here a persistently infected cell system with unique properties. Cells infected with human parainfluenza virus type 3 (PF3) at high multiplicities of infection showed little or no cytopathic effects (cell fusion). Unlike other paramyxovirus persistent infections that require a long development time, the majority of the cells survived the initial infection and formed persistently infected cell cultures that were immediately available for study. In addition, unlike other paramyxovirus persistent infections, the PF3 system described here produced high levels of infectious virus and did not undergo periodic crises. Although cells persistently infected with PF3 contained large amounts of the cleaved, active form of the viral fusion protein, F, the persistently infected cells did not fuse with each other. However, they did fuse with uninfected cells within minutes of cell-to-cell contact. Other persistent paramyxovirus infections do not have this property. Fusion occurred with all cells tested, including red blood cells, and was not dependent on protein synthesis. The unique fusion properties of these PF3 persistently infected cells make this an interesting system for the study of mechanisms of viral fusion and mechanisms of inhibition of viral fusion.


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