Endothelin 1 causes a strong Ca2+ signal in C6 rat glioma cells as measured by fura-2 fluorescence. This endothelin 1-induced Ca2+ signal was not observed when the cells were persistently infected with a measles virus strain of subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE, strain Lec). Binding of 125I-labeled endothelin 1 to the C6/SSPE cells was less than 5% of the binding to the C6 control cells, suggesting that the impairment in signal transduction was due to a loss of binding sites for endothelin 1. Treatment of the C6/SSPE cells with measles antiserum resulted in the loss of expression of viral proteins located in the membrane as well as inside the cells (antigenic modulation), but it restored neither the endothelin 1-induced Ca2+ rise nor the 125I-endothelin 1 binding. Cocultivation of uninfected C6 cells with C6/SSPE cells (9:1 ratio) resulting in contact-mediated transmission of measles virus showed that the 125I-endothelin 1 binding activity was gradually lost as a consequence of persistent virus infection.