Groups of monoclonal antibodies against measles virus nucleoprotein (NP), phosphoprotein (P), matrix (M), hemagglutinin (H) and fusion (F) components were used for characterization of 5 persistently infected cell lines. In four of these lines (Lu106 carrier, MaSSPE, MaPi, HEpPi) all cells were infected but the cells mostly produced noninfectious virus products. The fifth line (HNT in vero cells) did not produce any infectious virus and only a fraction of the cells were infected in most passages. In agreement with earlier findings the virus strains showed marked variations in the M epitope pattern and also some variation in the H epitope pattern. In addition epitope variations were found in both NP and P protein, which contrasted with conserved antigen characteristics of these components in lytically replicating virus. Restriction of fusion in the persistent infections was studied further. HNT and Lu 106 cells showed selective quantitative restriction in F protein synthesis. Lu 106 cells were found to contain distinct epitopic F species. In contrast MaSSPE cells produced readily detectable cleaved F protein and in addition extracellular virus products carried hemolytic activity. The fact that no cell fusion occurred was interpreted to be due to particular properties of the Ma 106 cells, a concept supported by the absence of fusion of these cells when infected with syncytiogenic measles virus. It is concluded that (a) under conditions of persistence of measles-virus without requirement for synthesis of complete virions a more pronounced variation in epitope characteristics of virus components is encountered than in lytic infections; and b) that persistence of measles virus shows individualistic characteristics which may reflect changes in the virus and/or innate properties of the host cells.
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