Human antibody responses to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) glycoprotein gp340 have been measured using purified preparations of the native molecule as the substrate in ELISAs. This glycoprotein is the dominant component of the EBV envelope and a major target for the virus-neutralizing antibody response. Healthy virus carriers (both Caucasian and Chinese) regularly show detectable anti-gp340 IgG in serum and, unexpectedly, 21-30% of these individuals are also serum anti-gp340 IgA positive. Chinese patients with the EBV-genome-positive malignancy nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) show elevated serum IgA antibodies to gp340 but, given the background of responses amongst healthy virus carriers, anti-gp340 IgA titres are a poorer diagnostic indicator of NPC than serum IgA antibodies detectable by immunofluorescence against the multicomponent EBV early antigen (EA). Salivary IgA antibody responses to gp340 are potentially important as a means of neutralizing orally-transmitted virus. We detected salivary IgA (but not IgG) to gp340 in a minority (12-19%) of healthy virus carriers and in a higher proportion (49%) of NPC patients. Even saliva samples chosen for their relatively high anti-gp340 IgA titres showed only weak neutralizing activity against transforming EBV preparations whether from B95.8 cell culture supernatant or from the throat washing of an infectious mononucleosis patient. We conclude that in healthy virus carriers, salivary IgA responses to gp340 are unlikely to provide effective local immunity against re-infection with a second EBV strain.