Using sera from hosts infected with bovine leukaemia virus (BLV), human T cell lymphoma virus types I and II (HTLV-I and -II), or simian T cell lymphoma virus type I (STLV-I), we found that the major proteins of these viruses cross-react immunologically. The specificity of this cross-reactivity was demonstrated by absorption using purified viral proteins, virus lysates and extracts of infected cells. The data strongly suggested that the cross-reacting epitope(s), referred to as CE, differs from those responsible for cross-reactions between the major proteins of HTLV-I, HTLV-II and STLV-I, and between those of BLV and HTLV-I reported previously. The prevalence of antibodies to CE was low, even amongst infected hosts with high titres to other epitopes present in the major proteins of the homologous viruses. CE was not detected in any of the other C- or D-type retroviruses, or lentiviruses examined. Therefore, it is likely that CE can be used to define serologically a subgroup of C-type retroviruses, the genomes of which display unique features and functional activities.


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