We recently reported the development of several monoclonal antibodies (MoAbs) to native human erythropoietin (Ep). In the present study we have used the two antibodies with highest affinity to develop a two- sided or sandwich enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to measure Ep in human serum. In this assay Ep is incubated in microtiter wells precoated with the first (IgE) anti-Ep antibody. Assay wells are then incubated with the second (IgG1) anti-Ep antibody, which is labeled noncovalently with the enzyme alkaline phosphatase (AP) by means of bispecific tetrameric antibody complexes consisting of IgG1 anti-Ep cross-linked to IgG1 anti-AP using rat MoAbs specific for mouse IgG1. Application of this noncovalent labeling procedure, in combination with substrate amplification, results in a detection sensitivity of 0.5 to 1.0 mU/sample (5 to 10 mU/mL), which makes this assay suitable for measuring normal serum Ep levels. The validity of this ELISA for quantitating Ep in biological fluids was demonstrated by the parallelism obtained between pure recombinant Ep dose-response curves and those obtained with plasma and serum from healthy donors and patients with various hematologic disorders. Normal plasma Ep levels detected with this ELISA ranged from 9 to 101 mU/mL with a mean of 32 +/- 23 (SD) mU/mL. Ep levels in sera from patients with polycythemia vera were in the low to normal range, whereas Ep levels in sera from patients with secondary polycythemia and patients with aplastic anemia were moderately to strongly elevated. These results demonstrate that the Ep-ELISA is a sensitive, reliable, and nonradioactive immunologic method for quantitating Ep levels and should prove useful in a variety of clinical and laboratory settings.

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