Ten monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) directed against three structural proteins of infectious bronchitis viruses (IBV), the peplomer (S), membrane (M) and nucleocapsid (N) proteins, were characterized and used to determine the antigenic relationship between Australian IBV strains. One MAb (MAb 5) was directed against an epitope on the S1 subunit of the peplomer, another (MAb 2) against an epitope on the M glycoprotein and eight MAbs (MAbs 1, 7, 9, 16, 24, 26, 27 and 51) were directed against seven non-overlapping epitopes on the N protein. None of the MAbs neutralized infectivity or inhibited haemagglutination of the virus. Conservation of the nine epitopes detected by these MAbs was determined in 13 serotypes of Australian IBV strains. Only epitope 5 on the S1 subunit of the peplomer was conserved in all strains. Epitope 2 on the M protein showed a high degree of conservation although this epitope was absent from four strains. None of the eight epitopes on the N proteins was conserved in all IBV strains but four epitopes (1, 16, 24 and 27) showed a high degree of conservation. Epitope 9 on the N protein was present only in IBV strains of one serotype whereas epitope 7 on the N protein distinguished vaccine viruses of serotype B from other IBV strains. The presence or absence of nine epitopes on three structural proteins differentiated IBV strains into five antigenic groups.


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