Plasmids encoding rubella virus (RV) structural proteins C-E2-Et, E2-Et, E2, and E1 have been constructed in the eukaryotic expression vector pCMV5. The processing and intracellular transport of these proteins have been examined by transient expression of the cDNAs in COS cells. Compared to alphaviruses, processing of RV glycoprotein moieties occurred relatively slowly and the transport of glycoproteins E2 and El to the plasma membrane was inefficient. Indirect immunofluoresence revealed that the majority of RV antigen in transfected and infected COS cells was localized to the Golgi region, including the capsid protein. Accumulation of capsid protein in the juxtanuclear region was determined to be RV glycoprotein dependent. Unlike alphaviruses, RV El did not require E2 for targeting to the Golgi where it was retained. E2 was however necessary for cell surface expression of Et. This study revealed that the processing and transport of RV structural proteins is quite different from alphaviruses and that the accumulation of antigens in the Golgi region may be significant in light of previous reports which suggest that RV buds from the internal membranes in some cell types.