Serological Analysis of a Subgroup of Human T-Lymphotropic Retroviruses (HTLV-III) Associated with AIDS
The two main subgroups of the family of human T-lymphotropic retroviruses (HTLV) that have previously been characterized are known as HTLV-I and HTLV-II. Both are associated with certain human leukemias and lymphomas. Cell surface antigens (p61 and p65) encoded by HTLV-I are frequently recognized, at low titers, by antibodies in the serum of patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) or with signs or symptoms that precede AIDS (pre-AIDS). This suggests an involvement of HTLV in these disorders. Another subgroup of HTLV, designated HTLV-III, has now been isolated from many patients with AIDS and pre-AIDS. In the studies described in this report, virus-associated antigens in T-cell clones permanently producing HTLV-III were subjected to biochemical and immunological analyses. Antigens of HTLV-III, specifically detected by antibodies in serum from AIDS or pre-AIDS patients and revealed by the Western blot technique, are similar in size to those found in other subgroups of HTLV. They include at least three serologically unrelated antigenic groups, one of which is associated with group-specific antigens (p55 and p24) and another with envelope-related (p65) proteins, while the antigens in the third group are of unknown affiliation. The data show that HTLV-III is clearly distinguishable from HTLV-I and HTLV-II but is also significantly related to both viruses. HTLV-III is thus a true member of the HTLV family.