Clone NS20Y of the mouse neuroblastoma C1300 was infected with wild-type Edmonston measles virus, and, after a transition to a carrier culture, became persistently infected. Persistently infected clones were derived and characterized morphologically by the appearance of multinucleate giant cells and nucleocapsid matrices in cytoplasm and nucleus, but very few budding virus particles. Antimeasles antibodies markedly suppressed the expression of viral antigens and giant cells, and the effect was totally reversible. When the cells were cultured at 33°C, the number of giant cells began to diminish and ultimately disappeared; in contrast, when cultured at 39°C, the cultures invariably lysed. Yields at 33°C were ca. 2 logs lower than those at 39°C. Cells cultured at 33°C produced relatively high levels of interferon, whereas those at 39°C produced little or no interferon. When the persistently infected cultures were exposed to anti-interferon α/β serum at a nonpermissive temperature, there was a marked increase in multinucleate cells, suggesting that maintenance of the persistence state and its regulation by temperature may be related to the production of interferon. Viral isolates from cells cultured at 39°C were obtained and 90% of viral clones were found to be cold sensitive. Complementation studies with different viral clones indicated that the cold-sensitive defect was probably associated with the same genetic function. Western blot analysis of the persistently infected cells indicated a significant diminution and expression of all measles-specific proteins at a nonpermissive temperature. Infection of NS20Y neuroblastoma cell with the cold-sensitive virus isolates resulted in the development of an immediate persistent infection, whereas infection of Vero or HeLa cells resulted in a characteristic lytic infection, suggesting that the cold-sensitive mutants may be selected or adapted for persistent infection in cells of neural origin.