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AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 1993 Jul;9(7):687-94.

Antibodies in human sera recognizing a recombinant outer membrane protein encoded by the envelope gene of the human endogenous retrovirus K.

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Institut für Hygiene, Leopold Franzens Universität, Innsbruck, Austria.


Human endogenous retrovirus (HERV) K is present in about 50 copies in the human genome and transcription of HERV-K has previously been detected in several tumor cell lines as well as in peripheral blood lymphocytes from healthy donors. By means of immunoblotting we investigated the presence of antibodies recognizing recombinant HERV-K-envelope outer membrane constructs in different serum collectives. A total of 12.6% of sera obtained from normal blood donors was found positive. In serum collectives from breast carcinoma patients, HIV-1-positive individuals, and persons with cytomegalovirus infections no significant difference from the normal blood donor serum collective could be observed. Only a group of persons with a repeatedly raised serum neopterin concentration (> 10 nmol/liter) of unknown cause (HIV and hepatitis B and C virus infections were excluded) showed a significant higher percentage of HERV-K-outer membrane envelope-positive sera (21%). Furthermore we could observe a parallel HIV-1/HERV-K seroconversion, which probably is not due to an HIV-1/HERV-K-outer membrane envelope cross-reactivity. Possible implications of these findings are discussed.

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