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1.  Structure of an Antibody in Complex with Its Mucin Domain Linear Epitope That Is Protective against Ebola Virus 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(5):2809-2816.
Antibody 14G7 is protective against lethal Ebola virus challenge and recognizes a distinct linear epitope in the prominent mucin-like domain of the Ebola virus glycoprotein GP. The structure of 14G7 in complex with its linear peptide epitope has now been determined to 2.8 Å. The structure shows that this GP sequence forms a tandem β-hairpin structure that binds deeply into a cleft in the antibody-combining site. A key threonine at the apex of one turn is critical for antibody interaction and is conserved among all Ebola viruses. This work provides further insight into the mechanism of protection by antibodies that target the protruding, highly accessible mucin-like domain of Ebola virus and the structural framework for understanding and characterizing candidate immunotherapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3302272  PMID: 22171276
2.  Editing Anti-DNA B Cells by Vλx 
Receptor editing is performed by replacement of Vκ genes that contribute to autoreactivity. In addition, the Cκ locus can be deleted by Vκ rearrangement to intronic or 3′ of Cκ RS sequences (also referred to as κ deletion elements). B cells that delete the Cκ can then express λ light chains. However, the λ locus, either of man or mouse, does not allow V gene replacement. Nor does it appear to be deleted. Therefore, editing of autoreactive λ B cells may require alternative pathways. We have found that in anti-DNA heavy chain transgenic mice (tgs) VH3H9/56R, B cells that express anti-DNA receptors comprised of λ1 in association with an anti-DNA heavy chain often coexpress a κ chain that prevents DNA binding. We speculate that such isotypically included cells may have low anti-DNA receptor densities, a feature that may lead to self-tolerance. Here we describe a mechanism of preventing DNA binding by expression of a rarely used member of the Vλ family, Vλx. The λx B cells of the tgs also express CD25 and may represent B cells that have exhausted light chain editing possibilities.
PMCID: PMC2211795  PMID: 14757741
autoimmunity; lupus; CD25; light chain; myelin basic protein
3.  Crystal Structure of Swine Major Histocompatibility Complex Class I SLA-1*0401 and Identification of 2009 Pandemic Swine-Origin Influenza A H1N1 Virus Cytotoxic T Lymphocyte Epitope Peptides ▿ 
Journal of Virology  2011;85(22):11709-11724.
The presentation of viral epitopes to cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) by swine leukocyte antigen class I (SLA I) is crucial for swine immunity. To illustrate the structural basis of swine CTL epitope presentation, the first SLA crystal structures, SLA-1*0401, complexed with peptides derived from either 2009 pandemic H1N1 (pH1N1) swine-origin influenza A virus (S-OIVNW9; NSDTVGWSW) or Ebola virus (EbolaAY9; ATAAATEAY) were determined in this study. The overall peptide–SLA-1*0401 structures resemble, as expected, the general conformations of other structure-solved peptide major histocompatibility complexes (pMHC). The major distinction of SLA-1*0401 is that Arg156 has a “one-ballot veto” function in peptide binding, due to its flexible side chain. S-OIVNW9 and EbolaAY9 bind SLA-1*0401 with similar conformations but employ different water molecules to stabilize their binding. The side chain of P7 residues in both peptides is exposed, indicating that the epitopes are “featured” peptides presented by this SLA. Further analyses showed that SLA-1*0401 and human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I HLA-A*0101 can present the same peptides, but in different conformations, demonstrating cross-species epitope presentation. CTL epitope peptides derived from 2009 pandemic S-OIV were screened and evaluated by the in vitro refolding method. Three peptides were identified as potential cross-species influenza virus (IV) CTL epitopes. The binding motif of SLA-1*0401 was proposed, and thermostabilities of key peptide–SLA-1*0401 complexes were analyzed by circular dichroism spectra. Our results not only provide the structural basis of peptide presentation by SLA I but also identify some IV CTL epitope peptides. These results will benefit both vaccine development and swine organ-based xenotransplantation.
PMCID: PMC3209268  PMID: 21900158
4.  Human Anti-V3 HIV-1 Monoclonal Antibodies Encoded by the VH5-51/VL Lambda Genes Define a Conserved Antigenic Structure 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e27780.
Preferential usage of immunoglobulin (Ig) genes that encode antibodies (Abs) against various pathogens is rarely observed and the nature of their dominance is unclear in the context of stochastic recombination of Ig genes. The hypothesis that restricted usage of Ig genes predetermines the antibody specificity was tested in this study of 18 human anti-V3 monoclonal Abs (mAbs) generated from unrelated individuals infected with various subtypes of HIV-1, all of which preferentially used pairing of the VH5-51 and VL lambda genes. Crystallographic analysis of five VH5-51/VL lambda-encoded Fabs complexed with various V3 peptides revealed a common three dimensional (3D) shape of the antigen-binding sites primarily determined by the four complementarity determining regions (CDR) for the heavy (H) and light (L) chains: specifically, the H1, H2, L1 and L2 domains. The CDR H3 domain did not contribute to the shape of the binding pocket, as it had different lengths, sequences and conformations for each mAb. The same shape of the binding site was further confirmed by the identical backbone conformation exhibited by V3 peptides in complex with Fabs which fully adapted to the binding pocket and the same key contact residues, mainly germline-encoded in the heavy and light chains of five Fabs. Finally, the VH5-51 anti-V3 mAbs recognized an epitope with an identical 3D structure which is mimicked by a single mimotope recognized by the majority of VH5-51-derived mAbs but not by other V3 mAbs. These data suggest that the identification of preferentially used Ig genes by neutralizing mAbs may define conserved epitopes in the diverse virus envelopes. This will be useful information for designing vaccine immunogen inducing cross-neutralizing Abs.
PMCID: PMC3229485  PMID: 22164215
5.  Protection from Ebola Virus Mediated by Cytotoxic T Lymphocytes Specific for the Viral Nucleoprotein 
Journal of Virology  2001;75(6):2660-2664.
Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) are proposed to be critical for protection from intracellular pathogens such as Ebola virus. However, there have been no demonstrations that protection against Ebola virus is mediated by Ebola virus-specific CTLs. Here, we report that C57BL/6 mice vaccinated with Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus replicons encoding the Ebola virus nucleoprotein (NP) survived lethal challenge with Ebola virus. Vaccination induced both antibodies to the NP and a major histocompatibility complex class I-restricted CTL response to an 11-amino-acid sequence in the amino-terminal portion of the Ebola virus NP. Passive transfer of polyclonal NP-specific antiserum did not protect recipient mice. In contrast, adoptive transfer of CTLs specific for the Ebola virus NP protected unvaccinated mice from lethal Ebola virus challenge. The protective CTLs were CD8+, restricted to the Db class I molecule, and recognized an epitope within amino acids 43 to 53 (VYQVNNLEEIC) in the Ebola virus NP. The demonstration that CTLs can prevent lethal Ebola virus infection affects vaccine development in that protective cellular immune responses may be required for optimal protection from Ebola virus.
PMCID: PMC115890  PMID: 11222689
6.  Comprehensive Functional Analysis of N-Linked Glycans on Ebola Virus GP1 
mBio  2014;5(1):e00862-13.
Ebola virus (EBOV) entry requires the virion surface-associated glycoprotein (GP) that is composed of a trimer of heterodimers (GP1/GP2). The GP1 subunit contains two heavily glycosylated domains, the glycan cap and the mucin-like domain (MLD). The glycan cap contains only N-linked glycans, whereas the MLD contains both N- and O-linked glycans. Site-directed mutagenesis was performed on EBOV GP1 to systematically disrupt N-linked glycan sites to gain an understanding of their role in GP structure and function. All 15 N-glycosylation sites of EBOV GP1 could be removed without compromising the expression of GP. The loss of these 15 glycosylation sites significantly enhanced pseudovirion transduction in Vero cells, which correlated with an increase in protease sensitivity. Interestingly, exposing the receptor-binding domain (RBD) by removing the glycan shield did not allow interaction with the endosomal receptor, NPC1, indicating that the glycan cap/MLD domains mask RBD residues required for binding. The effects of the loss of GP1 N-linked glycans on Ca2+-dependent (C-type) lectin (CLEC)-dependent transduction were complex, and the effect was unique for each of the CLECs tested. Surprisingly, EBOV entry into murine peritoneal macrophages was independent of GP1 N-glycans, suggesting that CLEC-GP1 N-glycan interactions are not required for entry into this important primary cell. Finally, the removal of all GP1 N-glycans outside the MLD enhanced antiserum and antibody sensitivity. In total, our results provide evidence that the conserved N-linked glycans on the EBOV GP1 core protect GP from antibody neutralization despite the negative impact the glycans have on viral entry efficiency.
Filovirus outbreaks occur sporadically throughout central Africa, causing high fatality rates among the general public and health care workers. These unpredictable hemorrhagic fever outbreaks are caused by multiple species of Ebola viruses, as well as Marburg virus. While filovirus vaccines and therapeutics are being developed, there are no licensed products. The sole viral envelope glycoprotein, which is a principal immunogenic target, contains a heavy shield of glycans surrounding the conserved receptor-binding domain. We find that disruption of this shield through targeted mutagenesis leads to an increase in cell entry, protease sensitivity, and antiserum/antibody sensitivity but is not sufficient to allow virion binding to the intracellular receptor NPC1. Therefore, our studies provide evidence that filoviruses maintain glycoprotein glycosylation to protect against proteases and antibody neutralization at the expense of efficient entry. Our results unveil interesting insights into the unique entry process of filoviruses and potential immune evasion tactics of the virus.
PMCID: PMC3950510  PMID: 24473128
7.  Conserved Neutralizing Epitope at Globular Head of Hemagglutinin in H3N2 Influenza Viruses 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(13):7130-7144.
Neutralizing antibodies that target the hemagglutinin of influenza virus either inhibit binding of hemagglutinin to cellular receptors or prevent the low-pH-induced conformational change in hemagglutinin required for membrane fusion. In general, the former type of antibody binds to the globular head formed by HA1 and has narrow strain specificity, while the latter type binds to the stem mainly formed by HA2 and has broad strain specificity. In the present study, we analyzed the epitope and function of a broadly neutralizing human antibody against H3N2 viruses, F005-126. The crystal structure of F005-126 Fab in complex with hemagglutinin revealed that the antibody binds to the globular head, spans a cleft formed by two hemagglutinin monomers in a hemagglutinin trimer, and cross-links them. It recognizes two peptide portions (sites L and R) and a glycan linked to asparagine at residue 285 using three complementarity-determining regions and framework 3 in the heavy chain. Binding of the antibody to sites L (residues 171 to 173, 239, and 240) and R (residues 91, 92, 270 to 273, 284, and 285) is mediated mainly by van der Waals contacts with the main chains of the peptides in these sites and secondarily by hydrogen bonds with a few side chains of conserved sequences in HA1. Furthermore, the glycan recognized by F005-126 is conserved among H3N2 viruses. F005-126 has the ability to prevent low-pH-induced conformational changes in hemagglutinin. The newly identified conserved epitope, including the glycan, should be immunogenic in humans and may induce production of broadly neutralizing antibodies against H3 viruses.
IMPORTANCE Antibodies play an important role in protection against influenza virus, and hemagglutinin is the major target for virus neutralizing antibodies. It has long been believed that all effective neutralizing antibodies bind to the surrounding regions of the sialic acid-binding pocket and inhibit the binding of hemagglutinin to the cellular receptor. Since mutations are readily introduced into such epitopes, this type of antibody shows narrow strain specificity. Recently, however, broadly neutralizing antibodies have been isolated. Most of these bind either to conserved sites in the stem region or to the sialic acid-binding pocket itself. In the present study, we identified a new neutralizing epitope in the head region recognized by a broadly neutralizing human antibody against H3N2. This epitope may be useful for design of vaccines.
PMCID: PMC4054433  PMID: 24719430
8.  Expression of an immunogenic Ebola immune complex in Nicotiana benthamiana 
Plant biotechnology journal  2011;9(7):807-816.
Filoviruses (Ebola and Marburg viruses) cause severe and often fatal hemorrhagic fever in humans and non-human primates. The US Centers for Disease Control identify Ebola and Marburg viruses as “category A” pathogens (defined as posing a risk to national security as bioterrorism agents), which has lead to a search for vaccines that could prevent the disease. Because the use of such vaccines would be in the service of public health, the cost of production is an important component of their development. The use of plant biotechnology is one possible way to cost-effectively produce subunit vaccines. In this work, a geminiviral replicon system was used to produce an Ebola immune complex (EIC) in Nicotiana benthamiana. Ebola glycoprotein (GP1) was fused at the C-terminus of the heavy chain of humanized 6D8 IgG monoclonal antibody, which specifically binds to a linear epitope on GP1. Co-expression of the GP1-heavy chain fusion and the 6D8 light chain using a geminiviral vector in leaves of Nicotiana benthamiana produced assembled immunoglobulin, which was purified by ammonium sulfate precipitation and protein G affinity chromatography. Immune complex formation was confirmed by assays to show that the recombinant protein bound the complement factor C1q. Size measurements of purified recombinant protein by dynamic light scattering and size exclusion chromatography also indicated complex formation. Subcutaneous immunization of BALB/C mice with purified EIC resulted in anti-Ebola virus antibody production at levels comparable to those obtained with a GP1 virus-like particle. These results show excellent potential for a plant-expressed EIC as a human vaccine.
PMCID: PMC4022790  PMID: 21281425
Ebola virus; immune complex; Nicotiana benthamiana; plant vaccine; geminiviral replicon system
9.  Structural Basis for the Recognition of Human Cytomegalovirus Glycoprotein B by a Neutralizing Human Antibody 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(10):e1004377.
Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infections are life-threating to people with a compromised or immature immune system. Upon adhesion, fusion of the virus envelope with the host cell is initiated. In this step, the viral glycoprotein gB is considered to represent the major fusogen. Here, we present for the first time structural data on the binding of an anti-herpes virus antibody and describe the atomic interactions between the antigenic domain Dom-II of HCMV gB and the Fab fragment of the human antibody SM5-1. The crystal structure shows that SM5-1 binds Dom-II almost exclusively via only two CDRs, namely light chain CDR L1 and a 22-residue-long heavy chain CDR H3. Two contiguous segments of Dom-II are targeted by SM5-1, and the combining site includes a hydrophobic pocket on the Dom-II surface that is only partially filled by CDR H3 residues. SM5-1 belongs to a series of sequence-homologous anti-HCMV gB monoclonal antibodies that were isolated from the same donor at a single time point and that represent different maturation states. Analysis of amino acid substitutions in these antibodies in combination with molecular dynamics simulations show that key contributors to the picomolar affinity of SM5-1 do not directly interact with the antigen but significantly reduce the flexibility of CDR H3 in the bound and unbound state of SM5-1 through intramolecular side chain interactions. Thus, these residues most likely alleviate unfavorable binding entropies associated with extra-long CDR H3s, and this might represent a common strategy during antibody maturation. Models of entire HCMV gB in different conformational states hint that SM5-1 neutralizes HCMV either by blocking the pre- to postfusion transition of gB or by precluding the interaction with additional effectors such as the gH/gL complex.
Author Summary
Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) belongs to the family of β-herpes viruses. HCMV infections are not only life threatening to people with a compromised immune system but also the most common viral cause of congenital defects in newborns. Hence, the development of HCMV vaccines was ranked top priority by the US Institute of Medicine in 1999. Virtually all infected individuals develop antibodies against the envelope protein gB, which plays a crucial role in the infection process. Here, we describe the crystal structure of a fragment of the virus neutralizing antibody SM5-1 in complex with an antigenic determinant of gB, namely Dom-II. The structure shows that antigen antibody interactions are concentrated within two CDRs of SM5-1. Computational methods and an analysis of additional antibody sequences from the same lineage reveal that additional key contributions to high affinity binding are provided by residues that stiffen the extra-long CDR H3 loop without directly contacting the antigen. We suggest that the optimization of such indirect contributions represents a common and yet undervalued principle of the antibody maturation process. Furthermore our data suggest that the neutralizing effect of SM5-1 either originates from blocking membrane fusion or from preventing interaction of gB with other envelope proteins.
PMCID: PMC4192593  PMID: 25299639
10.  Identification of Protective Epitopes on Ebola Virus Glycoprotein at the Single Amino Acid Level by Using Recombinant Vesicular Stomatitis Viruses 
Journal of Virology  2003;77(2):1069-1074.
Ebola virus causes lethal hemorrhagic fever in humans, but currently there are no effective vaccines or antiviral compounds for this infectious disease. Passive transfer of monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) protects mice from lethal Ebola virus infection (J. A. Wilson, M. Hevey, R. Bakken, S. Guest, M. Bray, A. L. Schmaljohn, and M. K. Hart, Science 287:1664-1666, 2000). However, the epitopes responsible for neutralization have been only partially characterized because some of the MAbs do not recognize the short synthetic peptides used for epitope mapping. To identify the amino acids recognized by neutralizing and protective antibodies, we generated a recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) containing the Ebola virus glycoprotein-encoding gene instead of the VSV G protein-encoding gene and used it to select escape variants by growing it in the presence of a MAb (133/3.16 or 226/8.1) that neutralizes the infectivity of the virus. All three variants selected by MAb 133/3.16 contained a single amino acid substitution at amino acid position 549 in the GP2 subunit. By contrast, MAb 226/8.1 selected three different variants containing substitutions at positions 134, 194, and 199 in the GP1 subunit, suggesting that this antibody recognized a conformational epitope. Passive transfer of each of these MAbs completely protected mice from a lethal Ebola virus infection. These data indicate that neutralizing antibody cocktails for passive prophylaxis and therapy of Ebola hemorrhagic fever can reduce the possibility of the emergence of antigenic variants in infected individuals.
PMCID: PMC140786  PMID: 12502822
11.  Alternative Recognition of the Conserved Stem Epitope in Influenza A Virus Hemagglutinin by a VH3-30-Encoded Heterosubtypic Antibody 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(12):7083-7092.
A human monoclonal heterosubtypic antibody, MAb 3.1, with its heavy chain encoded by VH3-30, was isolated using phage display with immobilized hemagglutinin (HA) from influenza virus A/Japan/305/1957(H2N2) as the target. Antibody 3.1 potently neutralizes influenza viruses from the H1a clade (i.e., H1, H2, H5, H6) but has little neutralizing activity against the H1b clade. Its crystal structure in complex with HA from a pandemic H1N1 influenza virus, A/South Carolina/1/1918(H1N1), revealed that like other heterosubtypic anti-influenza virus antibodies, MAb 3.1 contacts a hydrophobic groove in the HA stem, primarily using its heavy chain. However, in contrast to the closely related monoclonal antibody (Mab) FI6 that relies heavily on HCDR3 for binding, MAb 3.1 utilizes residues from HCDR1, HCDR3, and framework region 3 (FR3). Interestingly, HCDR1 of MAb 3.1 adopts an α-helical conformation and engages in hydrophobic interactions with the HA very similar to those of the de novo in silico-designed and affinity-matured synthetic protein HB36.3. These findings improve our understanding of the molecular requirements for binding to the conserved epitope in the stem of the HA protein and, therefore, aid the development of more universal influenza vaccines targeting these epitopes.
IMPORTANCE Influenza viruses rapidly evade preexisting immunity by constantly altering the immunodominant neutralizing antibody epitopes (antigenic drift) or by acquiring new envelope serotypes (antigenic shift). As a consequence, the majority of antibodies elicited by immunization or infection protect only against the immunizing or closely related strains. Here, we describe a novel monoclonal antibody that recognizes the conserved heterosubtypic epitope in the stem of influenza A virus hemagglutinin. This antibody, referred to as MAb 3.1, recognizes its epitope in a manner that resembles recognition of a similar epitope by the de novo in silico-designed and affinity-matured synthetic protein HB36.3. Thus, besides providing novel insights into the molecular interactions between heterosubtypic antibodies and influenza virus hemagglutinin, MAb 3.1 demonstrates that de novo in silico-designed and affinity-matured synthetic proteins can foretell naturally selected antibody binding. This knowledge will aid development of a pan-influenza virus vaccine.
PMCID: PMC4054347  PMID: 24719426
12.  Structure of the Malaria Antigen AMA1 in Complex with a Growth-Inhibitory Antibody 
PLoS Pathogens  2007;3(9):e138.
Identifying functionally critical regions of the malaria antigen AMA1 (apical membrane antigen 1) is necessary to understand the significance of the polymorphisms within this antigen for vaccine development. The crystal structure of AMA1 in complex with the Fab fragment of inhibitory monoclonal antibody 1F9 reveals that 1F9 binds to the AMA1 solvent-exposed hydrophobic trough, confirming its importance. 1F9 uses the heavy and light chain complementarity-determining regions (CDRs) to wrap around the polymorphic loops adjacent to the trough, but uses a ridge of framework residues to bind to the hydrophobic trough. The resulting 1F9-AMA1–combined buried surface of 2,470 Å2 is considerably larger than previously reported Fab–antigen interfaces. Mutations of polymorphic AMA1 residues within the 1F9 epitope disrupt 1F9 binding and dramatically reduce the binding of affinity-purified human antibodies. Moreover, 1F9 binding to AMA1 is competed by naturally acquired human antibodies, confirming that the 1F9 epitope is a frequent target of immunological attack.
Author Summary
Malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum causes more than 1 million deaths annually, and the development of a vaccine against this parasite is a major public health priority. Development of a vaccine is considered feasible because infection with malaria parasites induces protective immune responses, which include antibodies to a range of proteins on the parasite surface. Antigenic diversity allows the parasite to evade protective responses, and this may make it difficult to develop a vaccine that is effective against most infections. To facilitate the design of an effective vaccine, a more detailed understanding of how antibodies interact with their target parasite antigens is required. Here, we provide a detailed structural picture of the interaction between a growth-inhibitory monoclonal antibody and the leading vaccine candidate, AMA1. The results provide important insights into why some antibodies are inhibitory and why antigenic diversity in AMA1 enables the parasite to evade protective antibody responses.
PMCID: PMC2323298  PMID: 17907804
13.  The Long Third Complementarity-Determining Region of the Heavy Chain Is Important in the Activity of the Broadly Neutralizing Anti-Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Antibody 2F5 
Journal of Virology  2004;78(6):3155-3161.
The human monoclonal antibody 2F5 neutralizes primary human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) with rare breadth and potency. A crystal structure of a complex of 2F5 and a peptide corresponding to its core epitope on gp41, ELDKWAS, revealed that the peptide interacts with residues at the base of the unusually long (22-residue) third complementarity-determining region of the heavy chain (CDR H3) but not the apex. Here, we perform alanine-scanning mutagenesis across CDR H3 and make additional substitutions of selected residues to map the paratope of Fab 2F5. Substitution of residues from the base of the H3 loop or from CDRs H1, H2, and L3, which are proximal to the peptide, significantly diminished the affinity of Fab 2F5 for gp41 and a short peptide containing the 2F5 core motif. However, nonconservative substitutions to a phenylalanine residue at the apex of the H3 loop also markedly decreased 2F5 binding to both gp41 and the peptide, suggesting that recognition of the core epitope is crucially dependent on features at the apex of the H3 loop. Furthermore, substitution at the apex of the H3 loop had an even more pronounced effect on the neutralizing activity of 2F5 against three sensitive HIV-1. These observations present a challenge to vaccine strategies based on peptide mimics of the linear epitope.
PMCID: PMC353725  PMID: 14990736
14.  Protection against lethal challenge by Ebola virus-like particles produced in insect cells 
Virology  2008;383(1):12-21.
Ebola virus-like particles (VLPs) were produced in insect cells using a recombinant baculovirus expression system and their efficacy for protection against Ebola virus infection was investigated. Two immunizations with 50 ug Ebola VLPs (high dose) induced a high level of antibodies against Ebola GP that exhibited strong neutralizing activity against GP-mediated virus infection and conferred complete protection of vaccinated mice against lethal challenge by a high dose of mouse-adapted Ebola virus. In contrast, two immunizations with 10 ug Ebola VLPs (low dose) induced 5-fold lower levels of antibodies against GP and these mice were not protected against lethal Ebola virus challenge, similar to control mice that were immunized with 50 ug SIV Gag VLPs. However, the antibody response against GP were boosted significantly after a third immunization with 10 ug Ebola VLPs to similar levels as those induced by two immunizations with 50 ug Ebola VLPs, and vaccinated mice were also effectively protected against lethal Ebola virus challenge. Furthermore, serum viremia levels in protected mice were either below the level of detection or significantly lower compared to the viremia levels in control mice. These results show that effective protection can be achieved by immunization with Ebola VLPs produced in insect cells, which give high production yields, and lend further support to their development as an effective vaccine strategy against Ebola virus.
PMCID: PMC2657000  PMID: 18986663
15.  Structural Consensus among Antibodies Defines the Antigen Binding Site 
PLoS Computational Biology  2012;8(2):e1002388.
The Complementarity Determining Regions (CDRs) of antibodies are assumed to account for the antigen recognition and binding and thus to contain also the antigen binding site. CDRs are typically discerned by searching for regions that are most different, in sequence or in structure, between different antibodies. Here, we show that ∼20% of the antibody residues that actually bind the antigen fall outside the CDRs. However, virtually all antigen binding residues lie in regions of structural consensus across antibodies. Furthermore, we show that these regions of structural consensus which cover the antigen binding site are identifiable from the sequence of the antibody. Analyzing the predicted contribution of antigen binding residues to the stability of the antibody-antigen complex, we show that residues that fall outside of the traditionally defined CDRs are at least as important to antigen binding as residues within the CDRs, and in some cases, they are even more important energetically. Furthermore, antigen binding residues that fall outside of the structural consensus regions but within traditionally defined CDRs show a marginal energetic contribution to antigen binding. These findings allow for systematic and comprehensive identification of antigen binding sites, which can improve the understanding of antigenic interactions and may be useful in antibody engineering and B-cell epitope identification.
Author Summary
Antibodies are a primary adaptive defence mechanism against infection, and function by recognizing and binding to non-self antigens. While most of the sequence of all antibodies of a given individual is identical, relatively small variations turn each antibody into a specific binder of one antigen. It is widely assumed that antigen binding sites correspond to the so called Complementarity Determining Regions (CDRs) of the antibody, which are defined as the elements that are most different between antibodies. We analysed all known antibody-antigen complexes and found that about 20% of the residues that actually bind the antigen fall outside the CDRs. However, we also found that virtually all antigen binding residues fall within regions of structural consensus between antibodies. Moreover, we demonstrate that antigen binding residues that reside within these structural consensus regions but outside of the traditionally-defined CDRs make significant energetic contribution to antigen binding. Furthermore, we show that these regions are organized along the sequence of the antibody chains and are identifiable from the sequence of the antibody.
PMCID: PMC3285572  PMID: 22383868
16.  Antibodies to a Superantigenic gp120 Epitope as the Basis for Developing an HIV Vaccine1 
Failure to induce synthesis of neutralizing antibodies to the CD4 binding determinant (CD4BD) of gp120, a central objective in HIV vaccine research, has been alternately ascribed to insufficient immunogen binding to antibodies in their germline variable (V) region configuration expressed as B cell receptors, insufficient adaptive mutations in antibody variable (V) regions and conformational instability of gp120. We employed peptide analogs of gp120 residues 421-433 (CD4BDcore) to identify antibodies produced without prior exposure to HIV (constitutive antibodies). The CD4BDcore peptide was recognized by single chain Fv (scFv) fragments from non-infected humans with lupus that neutralized genetically diverse strains belonging to various HIV subtypes. Replacing the framework (FR) segments of a VH4-family scFv with the corresponding VH3-family FRs from scFv JL427 improved the CD4BDcore peptide binding activity, suggesting a CD4BDcore binding site outside the pocket formed by the complementarity determining regions. Replacement mutations in the FR site vicinity suggested the potential for adaptive improvement. A very small subset of serum CD4BDcore-specific serum IgAs from non-infected humans without autoimmune disease isolated by epitope-specific chromatography neutralized the virus potently. A CD4BDcore-specific, HIV neutralizing murine IgM with heavy and light chain V regions (VH and VL regions) free of immunogen-driven somatic mutations was induced by immunization with a CD4BDcore peptide analog containing an electrophilic group that binds B cells covalently. The studies indicate broad and potent HIV neutralization by constitutive antibodies as an innate, germline-encoded activity directed to the superantigenic CD4BDcore epitope that is available for amplification for vaccination against HIV.
PMCID: PMC3755593  PMID: 23089396
17.  Structure-guided Alterations of the gp41-directed HIV-1 Broadly Neutralizing Antibody 2F5 Reveal New Properties Regarding its Neutralizing Function 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(7):e1002806.
The broadly neutralizing HIV-1 antibody 2F5 recognizes an epitope in the gp41 membrane proximal external region (MPER). The MPER adopts a helical conformation as free peptide, as post-fusogenic forms of gp41, and when bound to the 4E10 monoclonal antibody (Mab). However, when bound to 2F5, the epitope is an extended-loop. The antibody-peptide structure reveals binding between the heavy and light chains with most the long, hydrophobic CDRH3 not contacting peptide. However, mutagenesis identifies this loop as critical for binding, neutralization and for putative hydrophobic membrane interactions. Here, we examined length requirements of the 2F5 CDRH3 and plasticity regarding binding and neutralization. We generated 2F5 variants possessing either longer or shorter CDRH3s and assessed function. The CDRH3 tolerated elongations and reductions up to four residues, displaying a range of binding affinities and retaining some neutralizing capacity. 2F5 antibody variants selective recognition of conformationally distinctive MPER probes suggests a new role for the CDRH3 loop in destabilizing the helical MPER. Binding and neutralization were enhanced by targeted tryptophan substitutions recapitulating fully the activities of the wild-type 2F5 antibody in a shorter CDRH3 variant. MPER alanine scanning revealed binding contacts of this variant downstream of the 2F5 core epitope, into the 4E10 epitope region. This variant displayed increased reactivity to cardiolipin-beta-2-glycoprotein. Tyrosine replacements maintained neutralization while eliminating cardiolipin-beta-2-glycoprotein interaction. The data suggest a new mechanism of action, important for vaccine design, in which the 2F5 CDRH3 contacts and destabilizes the MPER helix downstream of its core epitope to allow induction of the extended-loop conformation.
Author Summary
Host antibodies raised in response to acute viral infection are often protective to second exposure. However, in the less frequent examples of chronic infection, in which the virus actively replicates for prolonged periods, host immunity can impact on viral characteristics by applying selective pressures upon progeny. Such a dynamic process is exemplified by the extremely variable and pathogenic human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1). Relatively infrequently, antibodies are elicited during infection that can neutralize a diverse array of this malleable pathogen. Hence, studies which elucidate such antibodies are elevated in importance if the pathogen causes human suffering, yet no vaccine exists. Here, we describe a new property of the broadly neutralizing antibody, 2F5, which is directed to a conserved region of the HIV-1 surface protein near the lipid membrane. Through mutagenesis of the antibody and subsequent functional analysis, we present data that suggest a model in which the antibody first binds downstream of its known core epitope in a two-step process not directly involving the lipid membrane. Such studies may better elucidate the not yet defined details of virus-to-cell fusion by which viral DNA enters host target cells. Additionally, such analysis reveals 2F5 binding specificities, important for future vaccine designs.
PMCID: PMC3400562  PMID: 22829767
18.  Neutralizing Antibody Fails to Impact the Course of Ebola Virus Infection in Monkeys 
PLoS Pathogens  2007;3(1):e9.
Prophylaxis with high doses of neutralizing antibody typically offers protection against challenge with viruses producing acute infections. In this study, we have investigated the ability of the neutralizing human monoclonal antibody, KZ52, to protect against Ebola virus in rhesus macaques. This antibody was previously shown to fully protect guinea pigs from infection. Four rhesus macaques were given 50 mg/kg of neutralizing human monoclonal antibody KZ52 intravenously 1 d before challenge with 1,000 plaque-forming units of Ebola virus, followed by a second dose of 50 mg/kg antibody 4 d after challenge. A control animal was exposed to virus in the absence of antibody treatment. Passive transfer of the neutralizing human monoclonal antibody not only failed to protect macaques against challenge with Ebola virus but also had a minimal effect on the explosive viral replication following infection. We show that the inability of antibody to impact infection was not due to neutralization escape. It appears that Ebola virus has a mechanism of infection propagation in vivo in macaques that is uniquely insensitive even to high concentrations of neutralizing antibody.
Author Summary
Ebola virus is one of the most feared of human pathogens with a mortality that can approach 90% and an extremely rapid disease course that can lead to death within days of infection. Antibodies able to inhibit viral infection in culture, neutralizing antibodies, can typically prevent viral infection in animals and humans when present prior to infection, at sufficient concentration. Such neutralizing antibodies may be provided through passive administration or induced by vaccination. We have previously shown that a human neutralizing antibody can protect guinea pigs against Ebola virus. However, here we show that this antibody does not protect monkeys against Ebola virus and surprisingly appears to have very little impact upon the rapid course of infection, despite being present at very high levels in the blood of the monkeys. We conclude that administering antibody prior to or immediately following exposure to Ebola virus, for example, after an accident in a research setting or a bioterrorist attack, is unlikely to be effective in preventing disease. Recent successes in protecting monkeys against Ebola virus through vaccination may be independent of antibody, or, more likely, critically dependent on the cooperation of antibody and cellular immunity.
PMCID: PMC1779296  PMID: 17238286
19.  High-level rapid production of full-size monoclonal antibodies in plants by a single-vector DNA replicon system 
Plant viral vectors have great potential in rapid production of important pharmaceutical proteins. However, high-yield production of heterooligomeric proteins that require the expression and assembly of two or more protein subunits often suffers problems due to the “competing” nature of viral vectors derived from the same virus. Previously we reported that a bean yellow dwarf virus (BeYDV)-derived, three-component DNA replicon system allows rapid production of single recombinant proteins in plants (Huang et al. 2009). In this article, we report further development of this expression system for its application in high-yield production of oligomeric protein complexes including monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) in plants. We showed that the BeYDV replicon system permits simultaneous efficient replication of two DNA replicons and thus, high-level accumulation of two recombinant proteins in the same plant cell. We also demonstrated that a single vector that contains multiple replicon cassettes was as efficient as the three-component system in driving the expression of two distinct proteins. Using either the non-competing, three-vector system or the multi-replicon single vector, we produced both the heavy and light chain subunits of a protective IgG mAb 6D8 against Ebola virus GP1 (Wilson et al. 2000) at 0.5 mg of mAb per gram leaf fresh weight within 4 days post infiltration of Nicotiana benthamiana leaves. We further demonstrated that full-size tetrameric IgG complex containing two heavy and two light chains was efficiently assembled and readily purified, and retained its functionality in specific binding to inactivated Ebola virus. Thus, our single-vector replicon system provides high-yield production capacity for heterooligomeric proteins, yet eliminates the difficult task of identifying non-competing virus and the need for co-infection of multiple expression modules. The multi-replicon vector represents a significant advance in transient expression technology for antibody production in plants.
PMCID: PMC2905544  PMID: 20047189
Replicon; Monoclonal antibody; Transient expression; Plant-made Pharmaceuticals; replicon; viral vector; therapeutics
20.  Immune Protection of Nonhuman Primates against Ebola Virus with Single Low-Dose Adenovirus Vectors Encoding Modified GPs 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(6):e177.
Ebola virus causes a hemorrhagic fever syndrome that is associated with high mortality in humans. In the absence of effective therapies for Ebola virus infection, the development of a vaccine becomes an important strategy to contain outbreaks. Immunization with DNA and/or replication-defective adenoviral vectors (rAd) encoding the Ebola glycoprotein (GP) and nucleoprotein (NP) has been previously shown to confer specific protective immunity in nonhuman primates. GP can exert cytopathic effects on transfected cells in vitro, and multiple GP forms have been identified in nature, raising the question of which would be optimal for a human vaccine.
Methods and Findings
To address this question, we have explored the efficacy of mutant GPs from multiple Ebola virus strains with reduced in vitro cytopathicity and analyzed their protective effects in the primate challenge model, with or without NP. Deletion of the GP transmembrane domain eliminated in vitro cytopathicity but reduced its protective efficacy by at least one order of magnitude. In contrast, a point mutation was identified that abolished this cytopathicity but retained immunogenicity and conferred immune protection in the absence of NP. The minimal effective rAd dose was established at 1010 particles, two logs lower than that used previously.
Expression of specific GPs alone vectored by rAd are sufficient to confer protection against lethal challenge in a relevant nonhuman primate model. Elimination of NP from the vaccine and dose reductions to 1010 rAd particles do not diminish protection and simplify the vaccine, providing the basis for selection of a human vaccine candidate.
A simplified Ebola vaccine that consists of a modified GP protein (which is well-tolerated by human cells even at high concentrations) in a replication-defective adenoviral vector protects macaques.
Editors' Summary
Humans who get infected with Ebola virus develop an illness called Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHV), which is one of the most deadly viral diseases known; 50%–90% of all ill patients die, and there is no available treatment for EHV. Scientists think that the occasional outbreaks of the disease occur because the virus “jumps” from an infected animal to a person (a rare event) and then is transmitted between people by direct contact with infected blood or other body fluids or parts. Several strains or variants of the Ebola virus exist. Most outbreaks have been caused either by the Zaire strain or by the Sudan/Gulu strain (so-called because that is where the particular virus was first isolated). Scientists are working on a vaccine against Ebola that could be given to people before they get infected and then protect them when they come in contact with the virus. A number of candidate vaccines have been developed and tested in animals.
Why Was This Study Done?
The researchers who did this study are working on a vaccine that consists of two particular parts of the virus. One part is called GP (which stands for glycoprotein) and is from the outer coat of the virus; the other, NP (nucleoprotein), is from its inside. Without the rest of the virus, GP and NP cannot cause EBV. However, the hope is that giving these parts of the virus to an individual can educate their immune system to build a response against GP and NP, which would then recognize the virus should the vaccinated person become infected with the whole virus, and destroy it before it can cause disease. To get the GP and NP parts into the body so that they can cause a strong immune response (which is what effective vaccines do), the researchers used a manmade version of another, harmless virus called recombinant adenovirus 5 (or rAd5) to carry the NP and GP. The researchers have shown previously that this strategy for introducing a vaccine works in animals. The vaccine—i.e., the combination of the rAd5 virus and the two Ebola virus parts—can protect animals against subsequent infection with real Ebola virus that would otherwise kill them. However, during these earlier studies, the researchers had noticed that the GP part, when present at high levels, seemed to make human cells sick. They had not seen any similar problems in the experimental animals, but to be on the safe side they decided to see whether they could change the GP part so that it would still be effective as a vaccine but no longer make human cells sick.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
They changed the GP part of the vaccine in different ways so that it would no longer make human cells sick and then tested whether the resulting vaccines (combined with the original NP part and the Ad5 virus) could still protect monkeys from EHF after they were infected with Ebola virus. They found that some of the new GP versions made the vaccine less effective, but others did what they had hoped for; namely, they gave the same level of protection as when the original GP part was present. While doing these experiments, the researchers also found that the NP component seemed unnecessary and in some cases even weakened the vaccine's effect.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The researchers have now developed a simplified vaccine against Ebola virus that is effective in monkeys. This vaccine consists of only a modified GP component (which is well tolerated by human cells even at high concentrations) and the rAd5 component. This vaccine is not the only candidate currently being developed against Ebola, but it seems likely that it is one of a few that will be tested in human volunteers in the near future. The initial clinical trials will test whether the vaccine is safe in humans, and whether it can cause the immune system to produce an immune response that is specific for the Ebola virus. Assuming that the outcomes of these trials are positive, the next question is whether the vaccine can protect humans against Ebola disease. Because Ebola is so dangerous and outbreaks are relatively rare, the vaccine will likely be tested only during an actual outbreak. At that time, an experimental vaccine might be given to people at immediate risk of becoming infected, especially health-care workers who, because they take care of infected patients, are themselves at very high risk of becoming infected. In addition to trials in humans, the scientists will also explore whether this vaccine, which was developed based on the GP component of the Zaire strain, can protect monkeys against infections with other strains of the Ebola virus.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
• World Health Organization
• MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia
• US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
• Wikipedia (note: Wikipedia is a free Internet encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
PMCID: PMC1459482  PMID: 16683867
21.  Protective Cytotoxic T-Cell Responses Induced by Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis Virus Replicons Expressing Ebola Virus Proteins 
Journal of Virology  2005;79(22):14189-14196.
Infection with Ebola virus causes a severe disease accompanied by high mortality rates, and there are no licensed vaccines or therapies available for human use. Filovirus vaccine research efforts still need to determine the roles of humoral and cell-mediated immune responses in protection from Ebola virus infection. Previous studies indicated that exposure to Ebola virus proteins expressed from packaged Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus replicons elicited protective immunity in mice and that antibody-mediated protection could only be demonstrated after vaccination against the glycoprotein. In this study, the murine CD8+ T-cell responses to six Ebola virus proteins were examined. CD8+ T cells specific for Ebola virus glycoprotein, nucleoprotein, and viral proteins (VP24, VP30, VP35, and VP40) were identified by intracellular cytokine assays using splenocytes from vaccinated mice. The cells were expanded by restimulation with peptides and demonstrated cytolytic activity. Adoptive transfer of the CD8+ cytotoxic T cells protected filovirus naïve mice from challenge with Ebola virus. These data support a role for CD8+ cytotoxic T cells as part of a protective mechanism induced by vaccination against six Ebola virus proteins and provide additional evidence that cytotoxic T-cell responses can contribute to protection from filovirus infections.
PMCID: PMC1280180  PMID: 16254354
22.  Structural Basis for Differential Neutralization of Ebolaviruses 
Viruses  2012;4(4):447-470.
There are five antigenically distinct ebolaviruses that cause hemorrhagic fever in humans or non-human primates (Ebola virus, Sudan virus, Reston virus, Taï Forest virus, and Bundibugyo virus). The small handful of antibodies known to neutralize the ebolaviruses bind to the surface glycoprotein termed GP1,2. Curiously, some antibodies against them are known to neutralize in vitro but not protect in vivo, whereas other antibodies are known to protect animal models in vivo, but not neutralize in vitro. A detailed understanding of what constitutes a neutralizing and/or protective antibody response is critical for development of novel therapeutic strategies. Here, we show that paradoxically, a lower affinity antibody with restricted access to its epitope confers better neutralization than a higher affinity antibody against a similar epitope, suggesting that either subtle differences in epitope, or different characteristics of the GP1,2 molecules themselves, confer differential neutralization susceptibility. Here, we also report the crystal structure of trimeric, prefusion GP1,2 from the original 1976 Boniface variant of Sudan virus complexed with 16F6, the first antibody known to neutralize Sudan virus, and compare the structure to that of Sudan virus, variant Gulu. We discuss new structural details of the GP1-GP2 clamp, thermal motion of various regions in GP1,2 across the two viruses visualized, details of differential interaction of the crystallized neutralizing antibodies, and their relevance for virus neutralization.
PMCID: PMC3347318  PMID: 22590681
Filovirus; Ebola; ebolavirus; Sudan virus; neutralization: glycoprotein; antibodies; structure
23.  Role of Natural Killer Cells in Innate Protection against Lethal Ebola Virus Infection 
Ebola virus is a highly lethal human pathogen and is rapidly driving many wild primate populations toward extinction. Several lines of evidence suggest that innate, nonspecific host factors are potentially critical for survival after Ebola virus infection. Here, we show that nonreplicating Ebola virus-like particles (VLPs), containing the glycoprotein (GP) and matrix protein virus protein (VP)40, administered 1–3 d before Ebola virus infection rapidly induced protective immunity. VLP injection enhanced the numbers of natural killer (NK) cells in lymphoid tissues. In contrast to live Ebola virus, VLP treatment of NK cells enhanced cytokine secretion and cytolytic activity against NK-sensitive targets. Unlike wild-type mice, treatment of NK-deficient or -depleted mice with VLPs had no protective effect against Ebola virus infection and NK cells treated with VLPs protected against Ebola virus infection when adoptively transferred to naive mice. The mechanism of NK cell–mediated protection clearly depended on perforin, but not interferon-γ secretion. Particles containing only VP40 were sufficient to induce NK cell responses and provide protection from infection in the absence of the viral GP. These findings revealed a decisive role for NK cells during lethal Ebola virus infection. This work should open new doors for better understanding of Ebola virus pathogenesis and direct the development of immunotherapeutics, which target the innate immune system, for treatment of Ebola virus infection.
PMCID: PMC2212007  PMID: 15249592
virus-like particles; filoviruses; immunity; matrix protein; glycoprotein
24.  Structural Basis for HIV-1 Neutralization by 2F5-Like Antibodies m66 and m66.6 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(5):2426-2441.
Antibodies m66.6 and 2F5 are the only effective human HIV-1-neutralizing antibodies reported thus far to recognize the N-terminal region of the membrane-proximal external region (MPER) of the gp41 subunit of the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein. Although 2F5 has been extensively characterized, much less is known about antibody m66.6 or antibody m66, a closely related light-chain variant. Here, we report the crystal structure of m66 in complex with its gp41 epitope, along with unbound structures of m66 and m66.6. We used mutational and binding analyses to decipher antibody elements critical for their recognition of gp41 and determined the molecular basis that underlies their neutralization of HIV-1. When bound by m66, the N-terminal region of the gp41 MPER adopts a conformation comprising a helix, followed by an extended loop. Comparison of gp41-bound m66 to unbound m66.6 identified three light-chain residues of m66.6 that were confirmed through mutagenesis to underlie the greater breadth of m66.6-mediated virus neutralization. Recognition of gp41 by m66 also revealed similarities to antibody 2F5 both in the conformation of crucial epitope residues as well as in the angle of antibody approach. Aromatic residues at the tip of the m66.6 heavy-chain third complementarity-determining region, as in the case of 2F5, were determined to be critical for virus neutralization in a manner that correlated with antibody recognition of the MPER in a lipid context. Antibodies m66, m66.6, and 2F5 thus utilize similar mechanistic elements to recognize a common gp41-MPER epitope and to neutralize HIV-1.
PMCID: PMC3958054  PMID: 24335316
25.  Passive Transfer of Antibodies Protects Immunocompetent and Immunodeficient Mice against Lethal Ebola Virus Infection without Complete Inhibition of Viral Replication 
Journal of Virology  2001;75(10):4649-4654.
Ebola hemorrhagic fever is a severe, usually fatal illness caused by Ebola virus, a member of the filovirus family. The use of nonhomologous immune serum in animal studies and blood from survivors in two anecdotal reports of Ebola hemorrhagic fever in humans has shown promise, but the efficacy of these treatments has not been demonstrated definitively. We have evaluated the protective efficacy of polyclonal immune serum in a mouse model of Ebola virus infection. Our results demonstrate that mice infected subcutaneously with live Ebola virus survive infection and generate high levels of anti-Ebola virus immunoglobulin G (IgG). Passive transfer of immune serum from these mice before challenge protected upto 100% of naive mice against lethal Ebola virus infection. Protection correlated with the level of anti-Ebola virus IgG titers, and passive treatment with high-titer antiserum was associated with a delay in the peak of viral replication. Transfer of immune serum to SCID mice resulted in 100% survival after lethal challenge with Ebola virus, indicating that antibodies alone can protect from lethal disease. Thus antibodies suppress or delay viral growth, provide protection against lethal Ebola virus infection, and may not require participation of other immune components for protection.
PMCID: PMC114218  PMID: 11312335

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