The regions of the fusion protein of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that react with neutralizing, fusion-inhibiting and highly protective bovine and murine monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) were mapped by two methods: (i) competitive binding assays and (ii) production and analysis of antibody-escape mutants. Competitive binding assays with 16 murine and 10 bovine MAbs identified 11 antigenic sites on the fusion (F) protein, many of which overlapped extensively, and indicated that cattle, a natural host for RSV, and mice recognize similar epitopes. Neutralizing MAbs identified four sites, two of which were also fusion-inhibiting and highly protective in mice. The pattern of reactivity of antibody-escape mutants with the MAbs confirmed the mapping of the protective epitopes deduced from competitive binding assays. A comparison of the biological properties of MAbs to the F protein indicated that protection against RSV infection correlated with fusion inhibition rather than neutralization titre or complement-dependent lysis of virus-infected cells.


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