A radioimmunoassay for hepatitis B e-antigen (HBeAg) is described. Polystyrene beads coated with IgG prepared from a human serum containing antibodies to HBeAg (anti-HBe) and anti-HBe IgG labelled with I--hydroxyphenylpropionic acid -hydroxysuccinimide ester were used in the test. The radioimmunoassay was approximately 1000-fold more sensitive than immunodiffusion. At least a transient presence of HBeAg in serum appears to be a common feature of infections by hepatitis B virus. The radioimmunoassay was instrumental in establishing conditions for identification of apparently free monomeric HBeAg. The HBeAg has an approximate mol. wt. of 35000 and was recovered after isoelectric focusing in fractions with a pH between 4.25 and 4.8. Polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis revealed the presence in HBeAg of a polypeptide with an apparent mol. wt. of 17000.


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