Australia antigen [Au(1)], a particle associated with viral hepatitis, was isolated from the plasma of a patient with chronic anicteric hepatitis and leukemia who had received radioactive phosphorus.
We have found that the immunoreactivity and appearance of Au(1) in the electron microscope were not altered by treatment with enzymes including trypsin, pronase, lipase, phospholipase C, ribonuclease, deoxyribonuclease, amylase, and neuraminidase. In contrast, other serum constituents were degraded by these enzymes. Therefore, treatment of the patient's plasma with many enzymes was exploited as an initial step for the isolation of Au(1). Subsequently, Au(1) was purified from the enzyme-treated 32P-labeled plasma by gel filtration through Sephadex G-200 and centrifugation through sucrose and in cesium chloride gradients. There were no detectable human serum components in the purest fractions, as tested by immunoelectrophoresis and immunodiffusion. The density of the purified Au(1) was 1.21 in CsCl. The particle measured about 200 A in diameter, was predominantly spherical in shape and appeared to be composed of subunits. Nucleic acids were not detected by spectrophotometric, radiochemical, and chemical analyses. Immunoreactivity of purified Au(1) was destroyed by heating for 1 hr at 85°C but was stable at 56°C. Treatment with Carnoy's solution (3 parts ethanol:1 part glacial acetic acid) followed by pronase disrupted the particles as seen with the electron microscope. These findings, combined with other published information on Australia antigen and viral hepatitis, suggest that the bulk of Australia antigen in the blood of this patient is an incomplete virus or virus capsid.