We are studying the structural proteins and molecular interactions required for formation and release of influenza virus-like particles (VLPs) from the cell surface. To investigate these events, we generated a quadruple baculovirus recombinant that simultaneously expresses in Sf9 cells the hemagglutinin (HA), neuraminidase (NA), matrix (M1), and M2 proteins of influenza virus A/Udorn/72 (H3N2). Using this quadruple recombinant, we have been able to demonstrate by double-labeling immunofluorescence that matrix protein (M1) localizes in nuclei as well as at discrete areas of the plasma membrane where HA and NA colocalize at the cell surface. Western blot analysis of cell supernatant showed that M1, HA, and NA were secreted into the culture medium. Furthermore, these proteins comigrated in similar fractions when concentrated supernatant was subjected to differential centrifugation. Electron microscopic examination (EM) of these fractions revealed influenza VLPs bearing surface projections that closely resemble those of wild-type influenza virus. Immunogold labeling and EM demonstrated that the HA and NA were present on the surface of the VLPs. We further investigated the minimal number of structural proteins necessary for VLP assembly and release using single-gene baculovirus recombinants. Expression of M1 protein alone led to the release of vesicular particles, which in gradient centrifugation analysis migrated in a similar pattern to that of the VLPs. Immunoprecipitation of M1 protein from purified M1 vesicles, VLPs, or influenza virus showed that the relative amount of M1 protein associated with M1 vesicles or VLPs was higher than that associated with virions, suggesting that particle formation and budding is a very frequent event. Finally, the HA gene within the quadruple recombinant was replaced either by a gene encoding the G protein of vesicular stomatitis virus or by a hybrid gene containing the cytoplasmic tail and transmembrane domain of the HA and the ectodomain of the G protein. Each of these constructs was able to drive the assembly and release of VLPs, although enhanced recruitment of the G glycoprotein onto the surface of the particle was observed with the recombinant carrying a G/HA chimeric gene. The described approach to assembly of wild-type and chimeric influenza VLPs may provide a valuable tool for further investigation of viral morphogenesis and genome packaging as well as for the development of novel vaccines.