The molecular specificity of the IgG response against Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) was studied in 345 randomly collected sera of normal healthy individuals. The sera were tested on immunoblots containing antigens of the cell line HH514.c16 (a superinducible derivate of P3HR1), noninduced or induced for the expression of early antigens (EA) or viral capsid antigens (VCA), and from the EBV-negative cell line Ramos-Nut. This study reveals a remarkable similar antigen recognition pattern of IgG class antibodies in sera of healthy EBV carriers. The protein bands recognized predominantly have molecular weights of 18 kD, 36/38 kD, 40 kD, 72 kD, and 160 kD. The 72 kD and 36/38 kD bands were identified as EBNA1 and "Zebra," respectively, using reading frame-specific antisera. The bands at 160 kD (major capsid protein), 40 kD, and 18 kD were identified as VCA-class proteins. Of all EBV-seropositive sera tested, 98% reacted with either p18 or p40 or both. The synthesis of the antigens p18 and p40 was inhibited by phosphonoacetic acid, indicating that these were true late proteins. The detection of p18 and p40 in purified virion and capsid preparations confirms that these proteins are structural components of viral capsid antigen complex.