Timely and reliable detection of acute primary human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection is important in prenatal screening programs and for differential diagnosis of infectious mononucleosis-like disease. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) based on HCMV proteins enable the sensitive detection of immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies during primary infection. However, concerns have been raised about possible cross-reactivities of the HCMV antigens used for the design of such ELISAs with IgM antibodies induced by Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). In this study we investigated whether IgM antibodies generated during acute EBV infection reacted with recombinant HCMV antigens. Serum samples from patients with primary EBV infection frequently scored positive when tested in different HCMV IgM ELISAs, irrespective of whether conventional or recombinant antigens were used for the design of the HCMV IgM assays. Such cross-reactive IgM antibodies were found to be directed against short glycine-rich motifs contained within the nonstructural HCMV proteins pUL44 and pUL57. Further analyses revealed that these glycine-rich motifs were major antigenic domains for IgM antibodies induced during HCMV infection. Their deletion from recombinant proteins abrogated reactivity with IgM synthesized during HCMV infection. EBV-induced IgM antibodies that reacted with HCMV antigens showed similar kinetics of reactivity in HCMV- or EBV-specific assays in the course of primary EBV infection, indicating that the two populations of antibodies were highly overlapping. The results demonstrate that primary EBV infection leads to the induction of IgM antibodies that specifically bind to widely used diagnostic antigens of HCMV. This has to be considered in the interpretation of HCMV-specific IgM assays
To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.