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J Virol. 1997 June; 71(6): 4581–4588.
PMCID: PMC191680

Characterization of the antibody response specific for the human endogenous retrovirus HTDV/HERV-K.


Differentiated human teratocarcinoma cell lines produce the human teratocarcinoma-derived virus (HTDV) particles encoded by the human endogenous retrovirus sequence HERV-K. We screened almost 2,000 human sera for antibodies against this endogenous human retrovirus, HTDV/HERV-K. Specificity of the immunofluorescence reactions using particle producing teratocarcinoma cells was confirmed by immunoelectron microscopy of ultrathin frozen sections. Immunoblot analyses using lysates of HTDV-producing cells revealed a 80-kDa HERV-K Gag precursor and a 90-kDa putative viral Env protein after incubation with positive sera. No processed Gag protein could be observed. Virus-specific bands were not detected in lysates of nonproducing cells. High antibody titers were found in about 60% of male patients with germ cell tumors. Antibody reactivity declined after tumor removal. In healthy blood donors, anti-HTDV reactivity was found only at low titers in a small percentage (3.9%) of individuals. A slightly elevated but statistically significant percentage of HTDV positivity was also observed for sera of pregnant women, whereas human immunodeficiency virus-positive individuals exhibited no peculiarity compared to normal blood donors. Our results provide evidence that HTDV particles are expressed in vivo and that the immune reaction against HTDV/HERV-K is specific for defined viral proteins.

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