The nucleotide sequence of the genome of HTLV-III, the infectious agent etiologically associated with the acquired immune deficiency syndrome, predicts a small open reading frame, termed sor, located between the pol and env genes. A DNA segment containing 82 percent of the sor region was inserted into a prokaryotic expression vector, pJL6, to determine whether sor encodes a viral protein and to gain some insight into its possible function. The bacterially synthesized sor protein reacted with sera from individuals infected with HTLV-III, indicating that sor is expressed as a protein product or products that are immunogenic in vivo. Antibodies to the purified, bacterially synthesized sor protein were found to react specifically with the same protein and also with a protein of molecular weight 23,000 (23K) in HTLV-III-infected H9 cell extracts. The 23K protein comigrated with a protein immunoprecipitated by the serum of a hemophiliac patient with antibodies to HTLV-III, suggesting that this protein is probably the sor gene product.

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