Aujeszky's disease virus (ADV) envelope glycoprotein gVI (gp50) was purified from virus-infected Vero cells by ion-exchange and immunoaffinity chromatography and its usefulness as a subunit vaccine was evaluated in active and passive immunization studies. Four-week-old piglets were immunized intramuscularly (IM) with purified gVI twice two weeks apart and challenged intranasally (IN) 10 days after the second immunization with 30 LD50 (10(8)PFU) of a virulent strain of ADV. Pigs, vaccinated with 100 micrograms of purified gVI, produced virus neutralizing antibodies and did not develop clinical signs after challenge exposure. The challenge virus was not isolated from nasal swabs and tonsils of gVI-vaccinated pigs, whereas non-vaccinated control pigs developed illness after challenge exposure with the same virulent ADV strain which was later recovered from their nasal swabs and tonsils. Pregnant sows vaccinated twice with purified gVI (IM) at a three week interval produced virus neutralizing antibodies in colostrum. Four-day-old sucking piglets born of vaccinated sows were passively protected by colostral antibodies against intranasal challenge with a lethal dose of virulent ADV. Sera from gVI-vaccinated pigs were distinguished from experimentally infected swine sera by their differential reactivity in enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) using four major viral glycoproteins (excluding gVI) as antigen purified by the use of lentil-lectin.