To investigate the mechanisms of measles virus (MV) establishment and maintenance of persistence in lymphoid cells, we have established a long-term persistent infection with MV, Edmonston strain, in the human T lymphoblastoid cell line MOLT4, which has been in continuous culture for over 8 years. In this culture, designated MOMP1, more than 98% of cells display viral antigens. The MOMP1 culture is immune to superinfection with MV and is not cured by anti-MV antibodies. No evidence of defective interfering particles was obtained. The persistently infected culture releases an infectious virus showing a miniplaque and thermoresistant modified phenotype that, unlike the parental virus Edmonston strain which produces a lytic infection with extensive cell fusion, establishes an immediate persistence in MOLT4 cells with neither significant loss of cell viability nor cell fusion. This suggests that the modification in the virus suffices to maintain the state of persistence without requiring a coevolution of the host cell during the infection, as has been reported in other persistent virus infections.


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