Our recent extensive analysis of three cases of subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) revealed intriguing genetic defects in the persisting measles virus (MV): the fusion (F) genes encoded truncated cytoplasmic F protein domains (Cattaneo et al., Virology 173, 415-425, 1989). Now this MV genomic region has been investigated in eight additional SSPE cases by PCR amplification, replacement cloning into a vector containing the F gene of a lytic MV, in vitro expression, and sequencing. In all cases at least part of the clones showed mutations leading to F protein truncations, elongation, or nonconservative amino acid replacements. It is proposed that alteration of the F protein cytoplasmic domain may play a critical role in the development of SSPE.
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