The hemagglutinin-neuraminidase (HN) glycoprotein of the paramyxovirus SV5 is a type II integral membrane protein that is expressed at the infected cell surface. The intracellular assembly and transport of HN in CV1 cells was examined using conformation-specific HN mAbs and sucrose density sedimentation analysis. HN was found to oligomerize with a t( 1/2 ) of 25-30 min and these data suggest the oligomer is a tetramer consisting primarily of two noncovalently associated disulfide-linked dimers. As HN oligomers could be found that were sensitive to endoglycosidase H digestion and oligomers formed in the presence of the ER to the Golgi complex transport inhibitor, carbonylcyanide m-chlorophenylhydrazone (CCCP), these data are consistent with HN oligomerization occurring in the ER. Unfolded or immature HN molecules that could not be recognized by conformation-specific antibodies were found to specifically associate with the resident ER protein GRP78-BiP. Immunoprecipitation of BiP-HN complexes with an immunoglobulin heavy-chain binding protein (BiP) antibody indicated that newly synthesized HN associated and dissociated from GRP78-BiP (t( 1/2 ) 20-25 min) in an inverse correlation with the gain in reactivity with a HN conformation-specific antibody, suggesting that the transient association of GRP78-BiP with immature HN is part of the normal HN maturation pathway. After pulse-labeling of HN in infected cells, it was found that HN is rapidly turned over in cells (t( 1/2 ) 2-2.5 h). This led to the finding that the vast majority of HN expressed at the cell surface, rather than being incorporated into budding virions, is internalized and degraded after localization to endocytic vesicles and lysosomes.