Amino acid sequences coded for by the preS region of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) envelope gene are present both in HBV and in subviral hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) particles. Consequently, anti-preS-specific antibodies are elicited during the course of HBV infection. Such antibodies are virus-neutralizing. Therefore, it is important to determine whether or not vaccination with HBsAg also induces an anti-preS-specific immune response. We describe here an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay applicable for the screening of sera from vaccinated individuals for anti-preS antibodies. IgG from serum specimens was adsorbed to staphylococcal Protein A on a superparamagnetic support and subsequently mixed with a synthetic peptide analogue [preS(120–145)] covalently linked to β-lactamase. The presence of anti-preS in serum specimens resulted in binding of the conjugated β-lactamase to the magnetic support. The adsorbed enzyme was quantified colorimetrically.


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