Generation and properties of measles virus mutations typically associated with subacute sclerosing panencephalitis

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1994 Jun 6;724:367-77. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1994.tb38934.x.


Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), a very rare but lethal disease caused by measles viruses (MV) persisting in the human central nervous system (CNS) is characterized by lack of viral budding, reduced expression of the viral envelope proteins and spread of MV genomes through the CNS despite massive immune responses. The five major MV genes from several SSPE cases were cloned and sequenced, the two transmembrane envelope glycoproteins hemagglutinin (H) and fusion protein (F) were expressed and their maturation, cellular localization and functionality analyzed. We conclude that 1) mutations in the MV genes arise not only individually, by errors of the MV polymerase, but also in clusters as hypermutations, presumably due to RNA unwinding/modifying activity altering accidentally formed double-stranded RNA regions, 2) MVs spread in SSPE brains after clonal selection, 3) the MV matrix (M) gene is most heavily mutated and dispensable, 4) the two genes encoding envelope transmembrane proteins give rise to functional but altered proteins (typically F is heavily altered in its cytoplasmic domain), 5) H protein is transported poorly to the cell surface, 6) F and H proteins maintain tightly interdepending fusion functions, presumably to allow local cell fusion and MV ribonucleoprotein (RNP) spread through the CNS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Measles virus / genetics*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation*
  • Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis / microbiology*
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / metabolism
  • Viral Matrix Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Matrix Proteins / metabolism


  • Viral Envelope Proteins
  • Viral Matrix Proteins