A recombinant baculovirus expressing glycoprotein H (gpUL75) of human cytomegalovirus was used to examine the humoral immune response in naturally infected individuals. Recombinant baculovirus infected insect cells produced two forms of gH with molecular masses of 78–82 kDa and 94 kDa. The 94 kDa polypeptide was modified by high mannose oligosaccharide side-chains as shown by reduction in molecular mass after treatment with endoglycosidases H and F. The 78–82 kDa protein represented the non-glycosylated precursor which was resistant to the enzymes. In contrast to gH expressed in mammalian cells, the recombinant baculovirus expressed gH was transported to the cell surface. Glycoprotein H produced in insect cells was reactive with human convalescent sera and all tested neutralizing monoclonal antibodies recognizing either linear or conformational epitopes. Antibodies reacting with insect cell derived gH were detected in 96% of HCMV seropositive human sera. Using insect cells infected with the gH expressing recombinant baculovirus as immunoabsorbent, between 0% and 58% of the total virus neutralizing activity was removed from sera of individuals with a past HCMV infection. gH must therefore be considered a major antigen for the induction of neutralizing antibodies during natural infection.


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