A cDNA clone containing the complete coding sequence of the rinderpest fusion protein (F) gene was inserted into the thymidine kinase gene of vaccinia virus (WR strain) under the control of the 7.5K early/late vaccinia virus promoter. All forms of the F protein, i.e., the glycosylated Fo precursor, the unglycosylated F1 protein, and the glycosylated F2 protein, were detected in cells infected with the recombinant virus. Vaccination of rabbits with the recombinant virus induced antibodies which reacted in an ELISA system specific for rinderpest. The rabbit sera contained neutralizing antibodies against rinderpest virus and precipitated the F protein from lysates of rinderpest infected cells. Rabbits vaccinated with the recombinant rinderpest F gene vaccinia virus were protected from a lethal challenge with the lapinized Nakamura 3 strain of rinderpest virus. Variations in the severity of clinical symptoms correlated with the level of anti-F protein antibodies produced.