Recombinant soluble forms of the ectodomains of measles virus haemagglutinin (sH) and of its receptor CD46 (sCD46) were obtained as a purified disulphide-bonded sH homodimer with an apparent molecular mass of 160 kDa and a purified sCD46 monomer with an apparent molecular mass of 60 kDa, without detectable contamination with moesin. Purified sH bound to purified and immobilized sCD46 and this binding was specifically inhibited by sCD46 in solution. sCD46 bound to wild-type H expressed on the cell surface and inhibited measles virus binding to CD46-expressing cells. Binding of sCD46 to cell surface H was increased about twofold when measles virus fusion protein was coexpressed with H. sH bound to wild-type cell surface CD46 and inhibited measles virus binding onto CD46-expressing cells. sCD46 also inhibited virus infection. Thus, the direct interaction between the ectodomains of H and CD46 is likely to be the primary event in measles virus infection.