In order to assess the effect of the N-glycans associated with the GP5 neutralization epitope of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) on the neutralizing antibody (Ab) response of swine, groups of young pigs were infected with PRRSV strains differing in N-glycosylation pattern. The humoral immune response to strain VR-2332, harboring four potential N-glycan sites, was compared to that of two natural field isolates carrying mutations either abolishing the N-glycosylation site at position 44 (N44) or the two N-glycosylation sites in the hypervariable region upstream of the neutralization epitope (HV-1). The pigs were bled at intervals and their sera were assayed for neutralizing Abs by indirect and competition ELISAs using peptides containing the GPS neutralization epitope, and selectively for infectivity neutralization of a number of PRRSV strains. In addition, viremia was monitored by quantitative RT-PCR, and anti-N-protein Ab formation was measured by HerdChek ELISA. The neutralizing Ab responses as measured by peptide ELISA varied greatly between individual pigs infected with each PRRSV strain. Some pigs generated high titers of peptide binding Abs between 7 and 28 days post infection (p.i.), whereas other pigs had not generated a response by 90 days p.i. However, the HV-1-infected pigs generated Abs to the neutralization epitope more rapidly and to a 5-10 times higher level than VR-2332-infected pigs, and the Abs neutralized the homologous HV-1 virus 10-20 times more efficiently than PRRSV strains VR-2332, N44, MN184, or SDSU73. In contrast, most N44-infected pigs generated neutralizing Abs only after 42 days p.i. and only to low levels. The results suggest that the deletions of the N-glycans or other amino acid substitutions in the GP5 ectodomains of the mutants affect the immunogenicity of the neutralization epitope and the specificity of the Abs raised to it but not the sensitivity of the virions to Ab neutralization.