In measles virus (MV)-infected cells the matrix (M) protein plays a key role in virus assembly and budding processes at the plasma membrane because it mediates the contact between the viral surface glycoproteins and the nucleocapsids. By exchanging valine 101, a highly conserved residue among all paramyxoviral M proteins, we generated a recombinant MV (rMV) from cloned cDNA encoding for a M protein with an increased intracellular turnover. The mutant rMV was barely released from the infected cells. This assembly defect was not due to a defective M binding to other matrix- or nucleoproteins, but could rather be assigned to a reduced ability to associate with cellular membranes, and more importantly, to a defective accumulation at the plasma membrane which was accompanied by the deficient transport of nucleocapsids to the cell surface. Thus, we show for the first time that M stability and accumulation at intracellular membranes is a prerequisite for M and nucleocapsid co-transport to the plasma membrane and for subsequent virus assembly and budding processes.