The glycoprotein G (gG-2) purified from HSV-2 infected cells has been reported to be useful for determination of HSV-2 type-specific antibodies using conventional ELISA formats. This study further confirmed the specificity of gG-2 and demonstrated the feasibility of a specific IgM assay. The gG-2 ELISA was developed to detect HSV-2 specific IgG and IgM antibodies in human sera with high levels of sensitivity and specificity. Of 45 patients with culture-proven recurrent HSV-2 genital infection 44 were reactive for gG-2 IgG. Of 30 sera from patients with culture-proven recent initial HSV-2 genital infection 29 were positive for gG-2 IgM. Three patients with primary HSV-2 genital infection showed gG-2 IgM in the convalescent but not in the acute sera. The IgG- and IgM-gG-2 ELISA showed high specificity. None of 40 sera from children were reactive by either assay. Only one of 94 sera from patients with antibody to herpesviruses other than HSV reacted in the IgG assay but none reacted in the IgM assay. There was no cross-reaction with sera from patients with proven HSV-1 infection with the gG-2 antigen. The results suggest that the IgG assay can be used for demonstration of past HSV-2 infection and the IgM assay for the diagnosis of HSV-2 in neonatal herpes and primary genital herpes, when cultures or rapid diagnostic techniques are unavailable.