Persistent measles viruses (MVs) causing lethal human brain diseases are defective, and the structure of several mutated matrix genes has been elucidated previously. The present study of four persistent MVs revealed a high number of differences from a consensus sequence also in other genes. Amino acid changes accumulated in the carboxyl terminus of the nucleocapsid protein and in the amino terminus of the phosphoprotein, but did not significantly alter these products, which are implicated in viral replication and transcription. The contrary is true for the envelope glycoproteins: In three of four cases, mutations caused partial deletion of the short intracellular domain of the fusion protein, most likely compromising efficient viral budding. Moreover, in the hemagglutinin gene of a strain showing strongly reduced hemadsorption, 20 clustered A to G mutations, resulting in 16 amino acid changes, were detected. This hypermutation might be due to unwinding modification of a part of the MV RNA genome accidentally present in a double-stranded form. Finally, we classified four lytic and seven persistent MV strains on the basis of their sequences. Surprisingly, the four lytic viruses considered belong to the same class. The persistent viruses form more loosely defined groups, which all differ from the vaccine strain Edmonston.
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