Heterologous expression of the human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) envelope surface glycoprotein (gp46) in a vaccinia virus/T7 polymerase system resulted in the production of authentic recombinant gp46. Five differentially glycosylated forms of the surface envelope protein were produced by this mammalian system, as demonstrated by tunicamycin inhibition of N-glycosylation and N-glycan removal with endoglycosidase H and glycopeptidase F. These studies revealed that all four potential N-glycosylation sites in gp46 were used for oligosaccharide modification and that the oligosaccharides were mannose-rich and/or hybrid in composition. Conformational integrity of the recombinant HTLV-1 envelope protein was determined by the ability to bind to various HTLV-1-infected human sera and a panel of conformational-dependent human monoclonal antibodies under nondenaturing conditions. Furthermore, this recombinant gp46 was recognized by a series of HTLV-2-infected human sera and sera from a Pan paniscus chimpanzee infected with the distantly related simian T-cell lymphotropic virus STLVpan-p. Maintenance of highly conserved conformational epitopes in the recombinant HTLV-1 envelope protein structure suggests that it may serve as a useful diagnostic reagent and an effective vaccine candidate
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