In order to establish criteria for the serodiagnosis of foamy virus infections we investigated the extent to which sera from infected individuals of human and primate origin react with structural and non-structural virus proteins in immunoblot assays. Using lysates from infected cells as the source of virus antigen, antibodies were preferentially detected against the Gag proteins and the non-structural Bet protein. Both the Gag precursor molecules of 70 and 74K apparent and the cytoplasmic 60K Bet protein were found to be phosphorylated, the latter being synthesized in large amounts in infected cells. Rabbit antiserum raised against recombinant human foamy virus (HFV) Gag major capsid protein cross-reacted with foamy viruses of chimpanzee, gorilla, orang-utan, rhesus monkey and African green monkey origin. This was reflected by a broad cross-reactivity of the respective monkey sera to the Gag proteins of the various foamy virus isolates. Cross-reactivity of antisera against the Bet protein was restricted to viruses from man and the great apes. Recombinant Gag and Bet proteins expressed in prokaryotes or in insect cells were readily recognized by foamy virus-positive primate sera. Screening serum samples from chimpanzees with HFV Gag and Bet proteins expressed by recombinant baculoviruses revealed that 18 out of 35 (52%) were positive for Gag antibodies. Of these, 13 (72%) showed antibodies against the Bet protein, indicating that Bet antigen is of value in serological screening for foamy virus infections.


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