Sera from patients with cutaneous T cell lymphoma and leukemia were screened for the presence of natural antibody to the human T cell lymphoma (leukemia) virus, HTLVCR, using a solid-phase radioimmunoassay. Sera from two patients, including patient CR, from whose cultured T lymphoblastic cell line (HUT102), the retrovirus HTLVCR was isolated, reacted specifically with proteins of HTLVCR. Serum from patient CR also reacted specifically with proteins of HTLVMB, an independent but highly related retroviral isolate from a patient with Sezary T cell leukemia. The specificity for HTLVCR proteins was demonstrated by solid-phase immunocompetition assays and competition radioimmunoprecipitation assays. Analysis of radioimmunoprecipitates indicated that the natural antibodies were directed against HTLVCR core proteins with molecular weights of 24,000 and 19,000 (p24 and p19). Whereas the serum reactivities for HTLVCR proteins were shown to be highly specific, additional reactivities seen against proteins of animal retroviruses including GaLV, SSV, FeLV, and BaEV were clearly shown not to be viral specific but rather were due to reactivity with cellular antigens contaminating the viral preparations or with related antigens present in fetal calf serum. These results demonstrating natural antibodies to HTLVCR provide the first evidence for a specific antibody response to a retrovirus in humans.

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