The synthesis of matrix proteins was investigated in cultures of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (EC) infected with herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). EC cultures were either mock-infected or infected for 1 hour at a multiplicity of infection (MOI) of 5 or 20 infectious particles per cell. Synthesis was followed by determining [14C]-proline or [35S]-methionine incorporation into non-dialyzable proteins. Using SDS-PAGE we observed that synthesis of fibronectin (FN), type IV procollagen and thrombospondin (TSP) was inhibited in infected cultures as early as 2 hours becoming almost complete by 15 hours post-infection. The degree of inhibition of matrix protein synthesis was dependent on the dose of the virus inoculum (MOI 20 greater than MOI 5) and varied with the particular matrix protein, i.e. shut-off of type IV collagen occurred first followed by that of FN and then TSP. Pulse-chase experiments suggest that the absence of labeled matrix protein in the medium of infected cultures is not due to accumulation of protein within the infected cells since there was an equal and parallel reduction in the cell layer. Suppression of matrix proteins in infected cultures was confirmed by measuring the level of FN and TSP in uninfected and infected cultures in an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The three proteins were identified by ELISA, electroimmunoblot, immunoprecipitation and ion-exchange chromatography. The data suggest that HSV-1 infection of human EC suppresses matrix protein synthesis; the degree and time of complete shut-off varies with the protein and the virus dose.