The rinderpest (RV) nucleocapsid (NP) gene segment was inserted into the genome of Autographa californica nuclear polyhedrosis virus (AcNPV) adjacent to the polyhedrin promoter. The expression of NP protein in Sf9 cells was confirmed by indirect immunofluorescence and by Western blotting analysis with monoclonal antibodies. Recombinant RV-NP protein was purified by ultracentrifugation on a sucrose density gradient, and used as an antigen for an enzyme linked immunosorbent assay to detect anti RV-NP antibody. Both IgM and IgG antibodies against RV-NP were detected in the sera of rabbits infected with the L strain of RV. The pattern of development of IgG anti RV-NP antibody closely correlated with that of virus neutralizing antibody. In rabbits inoculated with recombinant vaccinia virus expressing RV-H gene (RRV-H), anti RV-NP was not detected. The results indicated that the baculovirus vector system can be used for the preparation of the diagnostic antigen of rinderpest as well as to distinguish between natural infection and vaccination with RRV-H.