The gene encoding the major nucleocapsid, N, protein of measles virus has been inserted into a baculovirus vector under the control of the polyhedrin promoter. Insect cells infected with this recombinant baculovirus synthesize high levels of measles N protein, up to 40% of total soluble cell protein. The recombinant protein is recognized by sera from convalescent patients, vaccinees and patients with subacute sclerosing panencephalitis and thus could form the basis of a simple diagnostic assay. Nucleocapsid-like structures, similar to those found in mammalian cells infected with measles virus, can be observed in both the nucleus and cytoplasm of the infected insect cells. These have many structural features in common with nucleocapsids found in measles virus-infected cells, but are longer (up to 2 µm) and have a lower buoyant density. Measles N protein thus appears to be capable of assembling into nucleocapsidlike structures in the absence of measles virion RNA or other viral proteins.


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