We have identified the major cellular endoprotease that activates the fusion (F) glycoprotein of measles virus (MV) and have engineered a serine protease inhibitor (serpin) to target the endoprotease and inhibit the production of infectious MV. The F-protein precursor of MV was not cleaved efficiently into the mature F protein in human colon carcinoma cells lacking functional furin, indicating that furin is the major enzyme responsible for activation of the MV F protein. A human serpin alpha 1-antitrypsin variant was engineered to specifically inhibit furin. When expressed from a recombinant vaccinia virus in primate cells infected by MV, the engineered serpin (alpha 1-PDX) specifically inhibited furin-catalyzed cleavage of the F-protein precursor without affecting synthesis of other MV proteins. We generated human glioma cells stably expressing alpha 1-PDX. MV infection in these cells did not result in syncytia. The infected cells produced all the MV proteins, but the F-protein precursor remained largely uncleaved. This did not prevent virus assembly. However, the released virions contained inactive F-protein precursor rather than mature F protein, and infectious-virus titers were reduced by 3 to 4 orders of magnitude. These results show that a mature F protein is not required for the assembly of MV but is crucial for virus infectivity. The engineered serpin may offer a novel molecular antiviral approach against MV.