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1.  Comparative Magnitude of Cross-Strain Conservation of HIV Variable Loop Neutralization Epitopes 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e15994.
Although the sequence variable loops of the human immunodeficiency virus' (HIV-1) surface envelope glycoprotein (gp120) can exhibit good immunogenicity, characterizing conserved (invariant) cross-strain neutralization epitopes within these loops has proven difficult. We recently developed a method to derive sensitive and specific signature motifs for the three-dimensional (3D) shapes of the HIV-1 neutralization epitopes in the third variable (V3) loop of gp120 that are recognized by human monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). We used the signature motif method to estimate the conservation of these epitopes across circulating worldwide HIV-1 strains. The epitope targeted by the anti-V3 loop neutralizing mAb 3074 is present in 87% of circulating strains, distributed nearly evenly among all subtypes. The results for other anti-V3 Abs are: 3791, present in 63% of primarily non-B subtypes; 2219, present in 56% of strains across all subtypes; 2557, present in 52% across all subtypes; 447-52D, present in 11% of primarily subtype B strains; 537-10D, present in 9% of primarily subtype B strains; and 268-D, present in 5% of primarily subtype B strains. The estimates correlate with in vitro tests of these mAbs against diverse viral panels. The mAb 3074 thus targets an epitope that is nearly completely conserved among circulating HIV-1 strains, demonstrating the presence of an invariant structure hidden in the dynamic and sequence-variable V3 loop in gp120. Since some variable loop regions are naturally immunogenic, designing immunogens to mimic their conserved epitopes may be a promising vaccine discovery approach. Our results suggest one way to quantify and compare the magnitude of the conservation.
PMCID: PMC3012121  PMID: 21209919
2.  Structural Basis of HIV-1 Neutralization by Affinity Matured Fabs Directed against the Internal Trimeric Coiled-Coil of gp41 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(11):e1001182.
The conserved internal trimeric coiled-coil of the N-heptad repeat (N-HR) of HIV-1 gp41 is transiently exposed during the fusion process by forming a pre-hairpin intermediate, thus representing an attractive target for the design of fusion inhibitors and neutralizing antibodies. In previous studies we reported a series of broadly neutralizing mini-antibodies derived from a synthetic naïve human combinatorial antibody library by panning against a mimetic of the trimeric N-HR coiled coil, followed by affinity maturation using targeted diversification of the CDR-H2 loop. Here we report crystal structures of the N-HR mimetic 5-Helix with two Fabs that represent the extremes of this series: Fab 8066 is broadly neutralizing across a wide panel of B and C type HIV-1 viruses, whereas Fab 8062 is non-neutralizing. The crystal structures reveal important differences in the conformations of the CDR-H2 loops in the complexes that propagate into other regions of the antigen-antibody interface, and suggest that both neutralization properties and affinity for the target can be attributed, at least in part, to the differences in the interactions of the CDR-H2 loops with the antigen. Furthermore, modeling of the complex of an N-HR trimer with three Fabs suggests that the CDR-H2 loop may be involved in close intermolecular contacts between neighboring antibody molecules, and that such contacts may hinder the formation of complexes between the N-HR trimer and more than one antibody molecule depending on the conformation of the bound CDR-H2 loop which is defined by its interactions with antigen. Comparison with the crystal structure of the complex of 5-Helix with another neutralizing monoclonal antibody known as D5, derived using an entirely different antibody library and panning procedure, reveals remarkable convergence in the optimal sequence and conformation of the CDR-H2 loop.
Author Summary
Membrane fusion of HIV-1 with its target cells represents the first step in viral infection. This process involves a series of conformational changes in two viral envelope glycoproteins, gp120 and gp41, subsequent to binding of gp120 to the CD4 receptor and the chemokine coreceptor on the target cell membrane. During the fusion process, the conserved N-heptad repeat (N-HR) of gp41 in the form of a trimeric coiled-coil is accessible and presents an attractive target for the generation of broadly neutralizing antibodies. Here we present the crystal structures of two monoclonal Fabs complexed to a mimetic of the N-HR trimer. These Fabs were derived from a synthetic human combinatorial antibody library comprising more than 1010 human specificities by first panning against an N-HR mimetic, followed by affinity maturation through targeted diversification of the CDR-H2 complementarity determining region. One of the Fabs is broadly neutralizing across a wide range of primary isolates from subtype B and C HIV-1, whereas the other one is non-neutralizing. Our structures reveal the key role of the CDR-H2 loop in antigen recognition and how this correlates with HIV-1 neutralization properties.
PMCID: PMC2978731  PMID: 21085615
3.  Functional and Structural Characterization of Human V3-Specific Monoclonal Antibody 2424 with Neutralizing Activity against HIV-1 JRFL 
Journal of Virology  2015;89(17):9090-9102.
The V3 region of HIV-1 gp120 is important for virus-coreceptor interaction and highly immunogenic. Although most anti-V3 antibodies neutralize only the sensitive tier 1 viruses, anti-V3 antibodies effective against the more resistant viruses exist, and a better understanding of these antibodies and their epitopes would be beneficial for the development of novel vaccine immunogens against HIV. The HIV-1 isolate JRFL with its cryptic V3 is resistant to most V3-specific monoclonal antibodies (MAbs). However, the V3 MAb 2424 achieves 100% neutralization against JRFL. 2424 is encoded by IGHV3-53 and IGLV2-28 genes, a pairing rarely used by the other V3 MAbs. 2424 also has distinct binding and neutralization profiles. Studies of 2424-mediated neutralization of JRFL produced with a mannosidase inhibitor further revealed that its neutralizing activity is unaffected by the glycan composition of the virus envelope. To understand the distinct activity of 2424, we determined the crystal structure of 2424 Fab in complex with a JRFL V3 peptide and showed that the 2424 epitope is located at the tip of the V3 crown (307IHIGPGRAFYT319), dominated by interactions with HisP308, ProP313, and ArgP315. The binding mode of 2424 is similar to that of the well-characterized MAb 447-52D, although 2424 is more side chain dependent. The 2424 epitope is focused on the very apex of V3, away from nearby glycans, facilitating antibody access. This feature distinguishes the 2424 epitope from the other V3 crown epitopes and indicates that the tip of V3 is a potential site to target and incorporate into HIV vaccine immunogens.
IMPORTANCE HIV/AIDS vaccines are crucial for controlling the HIV epidemics that continue to afflict millions of people worldwide. However, HIV vaccine development has been hampered by significant scientific challenges, one of which is the inability of HIV vaccine candidates evaluated thus far to elicit production of potent and broadly neutralizing antibodies. The V3 loop is one of the few immunogenic targets on the virus envelope glycoprotein that can induce neutralizing antibodies, but in many viruses, parts of V3 are inaccessible for antibody recognition. This study examined a V3-specific monoclonal antibody that can completely neutralize HIV-1 JRFL, a virus isolate resistant to most V3 antibodies. Our data reveal that this antibody recognizes the most distal tip of V3, which is not as occluded as other parts of V3. Hence, the epitope of 2424 is in one of the vulnerable sites on the virus that may be exploited in designing HIV vaccine immunogens.
PMCID: PMC4524078  PMID: 26109728
4.  Enhancing Exposure of HIV-1 Neutralization Epitopes through Mutations in gp41 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(1):e9.
The generation of broadly neutralizing antibodies is a priority in the design of vaccines against HIV-1. Unfortunately, most antibodies to HIV-1 are narrow in their specificity, and a basic understanding of how to develop antibodies with broad neutralizing activity is needed. Designing methods to target antibodies to conserved HIV-1 epitopes may allow for the generation of broadly neutralizing antibodies and aid the global fight against AIDS by providing new approaches to block HIV-1 infection. Using a naturally occurring HIV-1 Envelope (Env) variant as a template, we sought to identify features of Env that would enhance exposure of conserved HIV-1 epitopes.
Methods and Findings
Within a cohort study of high-risk women in Mombasa, Kenya, we previously identified a subtype A HIV-1 Env variant in one participant that was unusually sensitive to neutralization. Using site-directed mutagenesis, the unusual neutralization sensitivity of this variant was mapped to two amino acid mutations within conserved sites in the transmembrane subunit (gp41) of the HIV-1 Env protein. These two mutations, when introduced into a neutralization-resistant variant from the same participant, resulted in 3- to >360-fold enhanced neutralization by monoclonal antibodies specific for conserved regions of both gp41 and the Env surface subunit, gp120, >780-fold enhanced neutralization by soluble CD4, and >35-fold enhanced neutralization by the antibodies found within a pool of plasmas from unrelated individuals. Enhanced neutralization sensitivity was not explained by differences in Env infectivity, Env concentration, Env shedding, or apparent differences in fusion kinetics. Furthermore, introduction of these mutations into unrelated viral Env sequences, including those from both another subtype A variant and a subtype B variant, resulted in enhanced neutralization susceptibility to gp41- and gp120-specific antibodies, and to plasma antibodies. This enhanced neutralization sensitivity exceeded 1,000-fold in several cases.
Two amino acid mutations within gp41 were identified that expose multiple discontinuous neutralization epitopes on diverse HIV-1 Env proteins. These exposed epitopes were shielded on the unmodified viral Env proteins, and several of the exposed epitopes encompass desired target regions for protective antibodies. Env proteins containing these modifications could act as a scaffold for presentation of such conserved domains, and may aid in developing methods to target antibodies to such regions.
Julie Overbaugh and colleagues analyze an HIV strain with high susceptibility to antibody neutralization and identify two gp41 envelope mutations that confer this sensitivity by exposing multiple neutralization epitopes.
Editors' Summary
In 1984 when scientists identified human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)—the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)—many experts believed that a vaccine against HIV infection would soon be developed. Nearly 25 years later, there is still no such vaccine and with about 2.5 million new HIV infections in 2007, an effective vaccine is urgently needed to contain the AIDS epidemic. Vaccines provide protection against infectious diseases by priming the immune system to deal quickly and effectively with viruses and other pathogens. Vaccines do this by exposing the immune system to an immunogen—a fragment or harmless version of the pathogen. The immune system mounts a response against the immunogen and also “learns” from this experience so that if it is ever challenged with a virulent version of the same pathogen, it can quickly contain the threat. Many vaccines work by stimulating an antibody response. Antibodies are proteins made by the immune system that bind to molecules called antigens on the surface of pathogens. Antibodies that inactivate the invader upon binding to it are called “neutralizing” antibodies.
Why Was This Study Done?
Several characteristics of HIV have hampered the development of an effective vaccine. An “envelope” protein consisting of two subunits called gp120 and gp41 covers the outside of HIV. Many regions of this protein change rapidly, so the antibody response stimulated by a vaccine containing the envelope protein of one HIV variant provides little protection against other variants. However, other regions of the protein rarely change, so a vaccine that stimulates the production of antibodies to these “conserved” regions is likely to provide protection against many HIV variants. That is, it will stimulate the production of broadly neutralizing antibodies. Unfortunately, it has been difficult to find HIV vaccines that do this, because these conserved regions are often hidden from the immune system by other parts of the envelope protein. In this study, the researchers investigate the envelope protein of an HIV-1 variant they have isolated that is highly susceptible to inactivation by antibodies specific for these conserved regions. Comparing the envelope protein of this sensitive virus to closely related envelope proteins that are resistant to neutralization could identify features that might, if included in an envelope protein immunogen, produce a vaccine capable of generating broadly neutralizing antibodies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers isolated a subtype A HIV-1 variant from a newly infected woman in Kenya that was efficiently neutralized by monoclonal antibodies (antibodies made by cells that have been cloned in the laboratory). These antibodies were specific for several different conserved regions of gp41 and gp120. The isolate was also neutralized by antibodies in blood from HIV-1-infected people. The envelope protein of the sensitive variant was the same as that of a resistant variant isolated at the same time from the woman, except for four amino acid changes in conserved regions of gp41 (proteins are made from long strings of amino acids). Using a technique called site-directed mutagenesis, the researchers introduced these amino acid changes into envelope proteins made in the laboratory and determined that just two of these changes were responsible for the neutralization sensitivity of the HIV-1 variant. The introduction of these two changes into the neutralization resistant variant and into the unrelated envelope sequences of another subtype A (common in Africa) HIV-1 variant and a subtype B HIV-1 (common in Europe and the Western Hemisphere) variant increased the sensitivity of all these viruses to antibody neutralization.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that two amino acid changes in gp41 of a neutralization-sensitive HIV-1 variant are responsible for the sensitivity of this variant to several neutralizing antibodies. The finding that the inclusion of these changes in the envelope protein of neutralization-resistant HIV-1 variants greatly increases their sensitivity to neutralizing antibodies indicates that the normally shielded regions of the protein are somehow made accessible to antibody by these changes. One possibility is that the amino acid changes might modify the overall shape of the envelope protein, thus exposing multiple, normally hidden regions in the HIV-1 envelope protein to antibodies. Importantly, these findings open up the possibility that the inclusion of these modifications in envelope-based immunogens might improve the ability of vaccines to generate broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV-1.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIVInSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including links to resources dealing with HIV vaccine development
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on all aspects of HIV and AIDS, including HIV vaccines
The US Centers for Disease Control and prevention provides information on HIV/AIDS including information on its HIV vaccine unit (in English and some information in Spanish)
The AIDS Vaccine Clearinghouse provides clear information about HIV vaccine science, research and product development
The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative also provides straightforward information about the development of HIV vaccines
PMCID: PMC2174964  PMID: 18177204
5.  Worldwide Distribution of HIV Type 1 Epitopes Recognized by Human Anti-V3 Monoclonal Antibodies 
Epitopes, also known as antigenic determinants, are small clusters of specific atoms within macromolecules that are recognized by the immune system. Such epitopes can be targeted with vaccines designed to protect against specific pathogens. The third variable loop (V3 loop) of the HIV-1 pathogen's gp120 surface envelope glycoprotein can be a highly sensitive neutralization target. We derived sequence motifs for the V3 loop epitopes recognized by the human monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) 447-52D and 2219. Searching the HIV database for the occurrence of each epitope motif in worldwide viruses and correcting the results based on published WHO epidemiology reveal that the 447-52D epitope we defined occurs in 13% of viruses infecting patients worldwide: 79% of subtype B viruses, 1% of subtype C viruses, and 7% of subtype A/AG sequences. In contrast, the epitope we characterized for human anti-V3 mAb 2219 is present in 30% of worldwide isolates but is evenly distributed across the known HIV-1 subtypes: 48% of subtype B strains, 40% of subtype C, and 18% of subtype A/AG. Various assays confirmed that the epitopes corresponding to these motifs, when expressed in the SF162 Env backbone, were sensitively and specifically neutralized by the respective mAbs. The method described here is capable of accurately determining the worldwide occurrence and subtype distribution of any crystallographically resolved HIV-1 epitope recognized by a neutralizing antibody, which could be useful for multivalent vaccine design. More importantly, these calculations demonstrate that globally relevant, structurally conserved epitopes are present in the sequence variable V3 loop.
PMCID: PMC2853842  PMID: 19320565
6.  V3 Loop Truncations in HIV-1 Envelope Impart Resistance to Coreceptor Inhibitors and Enhanced Sensitivity to Neutralizing Antibodies 
PLoS Pathogens  2007;3(8):e117.
The V1/V2 region and the V3 loop of the human immunodeficiency virus type I (HIV-1) envelope (Env) protein are targets for neutralizing antibodies and also play an important functional role, with the V3 loop largely determining whether a virus uses CCR5 (R5), CXCR4 (X4), or either coreceptor (R5X4) to infect cells. While the sequence of V3 is variable, its length is highly conserved. Structural studies indicate that V3 length may be important for interactions with the extracellular loops of the coreceptor. Consistent with this view, genetic truncation of the V3 loop is typically associated with loss of Env function. We removed approximately one-half of the V3 loop from three different HIV-1 strains, and found that only the Env protein from the R5X4 strain R3A retained some fusion activity. Loss of V1/V2 (ΔV1/V2) was well tolerated by this virus. Passaging of virus with the truncated V3 loop resulted in the derivation of a virus strain that replicated with wild-type kinetics. This virus, termed TA1, retained the V3 loop truncation and acquired several adaptive changes in gp120 and gp41. TA1 could use CCR5 but not CXCR4 to infect cells, and was extremely sensitive to neutralization by HIV-1 positive human sera, and by antibodies to the CD4 binding site and to CD4-induced epitopes in the bridging sheet region of gp120. In addition, TA1 was completely resistant to CCR5 inhibitors, and was more dependent upon the N-terminal domain of CCR5, a region of the receptor that is thought to contact the bridging sheet of gp120 and the base of the V3 loop, and whose conformation may not be greatly affected by CCR5 inhibitors. These studies suggest that the V3 loop protects HIV from neutralization by antibodies prevalent in infected humans, that CCR5 inhibitors likely act by disrupting interactions between the V3 loop and the coreceptor, and that altered use of CCR5 by HIV-1 associated with increased sensitivity to changes in the N-terminal domain can be linked to high levels of resistance to these antiviral compounds.
Author Summary
The envelope protein of HIV-1 is responsible for binding virus to the surface of cells and mediating viral entry. Viral entry can be prevented by neutralizing antibodies that bind to envelope, and by small molecule inhibitors that bind to viral receptors on the cell surface, such as CCR5. HIV may acquire resistance to these small molecule inhibitors, several of which are being used in clinical trials to treat HIV-infected individuals, through resistance mechanisms that are not well understood. In addition, broadly neutralizing antibodies are rare—the envelope protein possesses structural features that limit antibody binding. We made a partial deletion in a region of envelope that interacts with viral receptors, and which is also widely believed to act as a shield against neutralizing antibodies. Normally, an envelope with such a modification would have total loss of function. However, by passaging virus with the partially deleted envelope in vitro, the envelope acquired adaptive mutations that restored function. Virus with the adapted envelope was highly sensitive to neutralizing antibodies and so may serve as a platform for immunization. This envelope also exhibited complete resistance to small molecule inhibitors that bind to the viral receptor CCR5, and lends insight into a mechanism of drug resistance by which the virus interacts with viral receptors on the cell surface in a novel manner.
PMCID: PMC1950945  PMID: 17722977
7.  Factors Determining the Breadth and Potency of Neutralization by V3-Specific Human Monoclonal Antibodies Derived from Subjects Infected with Clade A or Clade B Strains of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 
Journal of Virology  2006;80(14):7127-7135.
The neutralizing activities of anti-V3 antibodies for HIV-1 isolates is affected both by sequence variation within V3 and by epitope masking by the V1/V2 domain. To analyze the relative contribution of V3 sequence variation, chimeric Env genes that contained consensus V3 sequences from seven HIV-1 subtypes in the neutralization-sensitive SF162 Env backbone were constructed. Resulting viral pseudotypes were tested for neutralization by 15 anti-V3 MAbs isolated from humans infected with viruses of either subtype B (anti-V3B MAbs) or subtype A (anti-V3A MAbs). Pseudovirions with the subtype B consensus V3 sequence were potently neutralized (IC50 < 0.006 μg/ml) by all but one of these MAbs, while pseudovirions with V3 subtypes A, C, F, H, AG, and AE were generally neutralized more effectively by anti-V3A MAbs than by anti-V3B MAbs. A V1/V2-masked Env version of SF162 Env with the consensus B V3 sequence was also neutralized by these MAbs, although with considerably lower potency, while similarly masked chimeras with V3 sequences of subtype A, C, or AG were weakly neutralized by anti-V3A MAbs but not by anti-V3B MAbs. Mutations in the V1/V2 domain of YU-2 Env increased the sensitivity of this highly resistant Env to a pool of anti-V3B MAbs several thousand-fold. These results demonstrated (i) the exceptional sensitivity of representative V3 domains of multiple subtypes to neutralization in the absence of epitope masking, (ii) the broader neutralizing activity of anti-V3A MAbs for viruses containing diverse V3 sequences, and (iii) the generality and dominant effect of V1/V2 masking on restriction of V3-mediated neutralization.
PMCID: PMC1489036  PMID: 16809318
8.  Anti-V3 Monoclonal Antibodies Display Broad Neutralizing Activities against Multiple HIV-1 Subtypes 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(4):e10254.
The V3 loop of the HIV-1 envelope (Env) glycoprotein gp120 was identified as the “principal neutralizing domain” of HIV-1, but has been considered too variable to serve as a neutralizing antibody (Ab) target. Structural and immunochemical data suggest, however, that V3 contains conserved elements which explain its role in binding to virus co-receptors despite its sequence variability. Despite this evidence of V3 conservation, the ability of anti-V3 Abs to neutralize a significant proportion of HIV-1 isolates from different subtypes (clades) has remained controversial.
HIV-1 neutralization experiments were conducted in two independent laboratories to test human anti-V3 monoclonal Abs (mAbs) against pseudoviruses (psVs) expressing Envs of diverse HIV-1 subtypes from subjects with acute and chronic infections. Neutralization was defined by 50% inhibitory concentrations (IC50), and was statistically assessed based on the area under the neutralization titration curves (AUC).
Using AUC analyses, statistically significant neutralization was observed by ≥1 anti-V3 mAbs against 56/98 (57%) psVs expressing Envs of diverse subtypes, including subtypes A, AG, B, C and D. Even when the 10 Tier 1 psVs tested were excluded from the analysis, significant neutralization was detected by ≥1 anti-V3 mAbs against 46/88 (52%) psVs from diverse HIV-1 subtypes. Furthermore, 9/24 (37.5%) Tier 2 viruses from the clade B and C standard reference panels were neutralized by ≥1 anti-V3 mAbs. Each anti-V3 mAb tested was able to neutralize 28–42% of the psVs tested. By IC50 criteria, 40/98 (41%) psVs were neutralized by ≥1 anti-V3 mAbs.
Using standard and new statistical methods of data analysis, 6/7 anti-V3 human mAbs displayed cross-clade neutralizing activity and revealed that a significant proportion of viruses can be neutralized by anti-V3 Abs. The new statistical method for analysis of neutralization data provides many advantages to previously used analyses.
PMCID: PMC2858080  PMID: 20421997
9.  Human Monoclonal Antibodies Specific for Conformation-Sensitive Epitopes of V3 Neutralize Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Primary Isolates from Various Clades 
Journal of Virology  2002;76(18):9035-9045.
The epitopes of the V3 domain of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) gp120 glycoprotein have complex structures consisting of linear and conformational antigenic determinants. Anti-V3 antibodies (Abs) recognize both types of elements, but Abs which preferentially react to the conformational aspect of the epitopes may have more potent neutralizing activity against HIV-1, as recently suggested. To test this hypothesis, human anti-V3 monoclonal Abs (MAbs) were selected using a V3 fusion protein (V3-FP) which retains the conformation of the third variable region. The V3-FP consists of the V3JR-CSF sequence inserted into a truncated form of murine leukemia virus gp70. Six human MAbs which recognize epitopes at the crown of the V3 loop were selected with the V3-FP. They were found to react more strongly with molecules displaying conformationally intact V3 than with linear V3 peptides. In a virus capture assay, these MAbs showed cross-clade binding to native, intact virions of clades A, B, C, D, and F. No binding was found to isolates from subtype E. The neutralizing activity of MAbs against primary isolates was determined in three assays: the GHOST cell assay, a phytohemagglutinin-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cell assay, and a luciferase assay. While these new MAbs displayed various degrees of activity, the pattern of cross-clade neutralization of clades A, B, and F was most pronounced. The neutralization of clades C and D viruses was weak and sporadic, and neutralization of clade E by these MAbs was not detected. Analysis by linear regression showed a highly significant correlation (P < 0.0001) between the strength of binding of these anti-V3 MAbs to intact virions and the percent neutralization. These studies demonstrate that human MAbs to conformation-sensitive epitopes of V3 display cross-clade reactivity in both binding to native, intact virions and neutralization of primary isolates.
PMCID: PMC136433  PMID: 12186887
10.  Discrimination of Subtype B and Non-Subtype B Strains of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 by Serotyping: Correlation with Genotyping 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  1999;37(5):1356-1360.
The ability of a peptide-based serotyping assay to differentiate human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) type 1 (HIV-1) subtype B infections from non-subtype B infections was investigated with 166 anti-HIV-1- and HIV RNA-positive (by PCR) serum or plasma specimens. The specimens were divided genetically into those infected with subtype B and non-subtype B by application of a screening heteroduplex mobility assay (HMA) that used plasmids for subtypes A and B alone. Specimens that were not clearly infected with HIV-1 subtype B by HMA or for which the two methods had discordant results in distinguishing those infected with subtype B from those infected with non-subtype B were then investigated with a full HMA plasmid panel and, for selected specimens, env sequencing. For the 141 genotyped and serotypically reactive specimens, the correlation between genotyping and serotyping (all subtypes) was 69%. Of the 67 specimens that reacted monotypically as serotype B, 64 were shown to be infected with genotype B (positive predictive value, 96%). Of the 82 specimens that contained genotype B nucleic acid, 64 reacted monotypically as serotype B (sensitivity, 78%), and 4 specimens reacted with a single non-subtype B peptide; the viruses in 14 specimens could not be assigned a serotype. Initial screening results had indicated that 12 samples had results discordant between restricted HMA and serotyping. The V3 loop amino acids of the infecting HIV strains from the seven specimens with discordant serology results were analyzed. For five specimens discordance occurred when the amino acid sequence of the infecting virus closely resembled those of more than one consensus peptide antigen or when the observed V3 crown motif of the strain was atypical for the genetic subtype present. For the other two specimens no explanation for the discordance was identified. Five specimens gave unclear or discordant results in the initial HMA screen, but the results were resolved when the full plasmid panel was used. Serotyping, although of limited sensitivity, distinguishes between subtype B and non-subtype B infections with a high degree of specificity. However, it poorly differentiates the major non-subtype B subtypes, particularly subtypes A and C. When HIV-1 subtype B predominates, serological typing and/or subtype-restricted HMA screening usefully distinguishes between subtype B and non-subtype B infections.
PMCID: PMC84775  PMID: 10203486
11.  Cryptic Nature of a Conserved, CD4-Inducible V3 Loop Neutralization Epitope in the Native Envelope Glycoprotein Oligomer of CCR5-Restricted, but Not CXCR4-Using, Primary Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Strains 
Journal of Virology  2005;79(11):6957-6968.
The external subunit of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) envelope glycoprotein (Env), gp120, contains conserved regions that mediate sequential interactions with two cellular receptor molecules, CD4 and a chemokine receptor, most commonly CCR5 or CXCR4. However, antibody accessibility to such regions is hindered by diverse protective mechanisms, including shielding by variable loops, conformational flexibility and extensive glycosylation. For the conserved neutralization epitopes hitherto described, antibody accessibility is reportedly unrelated to the viral coreceptor usage phenotype. Here, we characterize a novel, conserved gp120 neutralization epitope, recognized by a murine monoclonal antibody (MAb), D19, which is differentially accessible in the native HIV-1 Env according to its coreceptor specificity. The D19 epitope is contained within the third variable (V3) domain of gp120 and is distinct from those recognized by other V3-specific MAbs. To study the reactivity of MAb D19 with the native oligomeric Env, we generated a panel of PM1 cells persistently infected with diverse primary HIV-1 strains. The D19 epitope was conserved in the majority (23/29; 79.3%) of the subtype-B strains tested, as well as in selected strains from other genetic subtypes. Strikingly, in CCR5-restricted (R5) isolates, the D19 epitope was invariably cryptic, although it could be exposed by addition of soluble CD4 (sCD4); epitope masking was dependent on the native oligomeric structure of Env, since it was not observed with the corresponding monomeric gp120 molecules. By contrast, in CXCR4-using strains (X4 and R5X4), the epitope was constitutively accessible. In accordance with these results, R5 isolates were resistant to neutralization by MAb D19, becoming sensitive only upon addition of sCD4, whereas CXCR4-using isolates were neutralized regardless of the presence of sCD4. Other V3 epitopes examined did not display a similar divergence in accessibility based on coreceptor usage phenotype. These results provide the first evidence of a correlation between HIV-1 biological phenotype and neutralization sensitivity, raising the possibility that the in vivo evolution of HIV-1 coreceptor usage may be influenced by the selective pressure of specific host antibodies.
PMCID: PMC1112133  PMID: 15890935
12.  Production and characterization of human anti-V3 monoclonal antibodies from the cells of HIV-1 infected Indian donors 
Virology Journal  2012;9:196.
Analysis of human monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) developed from HIV-1 infected donors have enormously contributed to the identification of neutralization sensitive epitopes on the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein. The third variable region (V3) is a crucial target on gp120, primarily due to its involvement in co-receptor (CXCR4 or CCR5) binding and presence of epitopes recognized by broadly neutralizing antibodies.
Thirty-three HIV-1 seropositive drug naive patients (18 males and 15 females) within the age range of 20–57 years (median = 33 years) were recruited in this study for mAb production. The mAbs were selected from EBV transformed cultures with conformationally constrained Cholera-toxin-B containing V3C (V3C-CTB) fusion protein. We tested the mAbs for their binding with HIV-1 derived proteins and peptides by ELISA and for neutralization against HIV-1 viruses by TZM-bl assays.
We isolated three anti-V3 mAbs, 277, 903 and 904 from the cells of different individuals. The ELISA binding revealed a subtype-C and subtype-A specific binding of antibody 277 and 903 while mAb 904 exhibited cross reactivity also with subtype-B V3. Epitope mapping of mAbs with overlapping V3 peptides showed exclusive binding to V3 crown. The antibodies displayed high and low neutralizing activity against 2/5 tier 1 and 1/6 tier 2 viruses respectively. Overall, we observed a resistance of the tier 2 viruses to neutralization by the anti-V3 mAbs, despite the exposure of the epitopes recognized by these antibodies on two representative native viruses (Du156.12 and JRFL), suggesting that the affinity of mAb might equally be crucial for neutralization, as the epitope recognition.
Our study suggests that the anti-V3 antibodies derived from subtype-C infected Indian patients display neutralization potential against tier 1 viruses while such activity may be limited against more resistant tier 2 viruses. Defining the fine epitope specificities of these mAbs and further experimental manipulations will be helpful in identification of epitopes, unique to clade C or shared with non-clade C viruses, in context of V3 region.
PMCID: PMC3493341  PMID: 22971578
HIV-1; Envelope glycoprotein; Third variable region; Anti-V3 monoclonal antibodies; Viral neutralization
13.  Crystal Structures of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 (HIV-1) Neutralizing Antibody 2219 in Complex with Three Different V3 Peptides Reveal a New Binding Mode for HIV-1 Cross-Reactivity 
Journal of Virology  2006;80(12):6093-6105.
Human monoclonal antibody 2219 is a neutralizing antibody isolated from a human immunodeficiency virus type 1-infected individual. 2219 was originally selected for binding to a V3 fusion protein and can neutralize primary isolates from subtypes B, A, and F. Thus, 2219 represents a cross-reactive, human anti-V3 antibody. Fab 2219 binds to one face of the variable V3 β-hairpin, primarily contacting conserved residues on the N-terminal β-strand of V3, leaving the V3 crown or tip largely accessible. Three V3/2219 complexes reveal the antibody-bound conformations for both the N- and C-terminal regions that flank the V3 crown and illustrate how twisting of the V3 loop alters the relative dispositions and pairing of the amino acids in the adjacent V3 β-strands and how the antibody can accommodate V3 loops with different sequences.
PMCID: PMC1472588  PMID: 16731948
14.  Cross-neutralization of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 and 2 and simian immunodeficiency virus isolates. 
Journal of Virology  1992;66(6):3602-3608.
In contrast to infrequent and low-titer cross-neutralization of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) isolates by HIV-2- and simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-positive sera, extensive cross-neutralization of HIV-2NIH-Z, SIVMAC251, and SIVAGM208K occurs with high titer, suggesting conservation of epitopes and mechanism(s) of neutralization. The V3 regions of HIV-2 and SIV isolates, minimally related to the HIV-1 homolog, share significant sequence homology and are immunogenic in monkeys as well as in humans. Whereas the crown of the V3 loop is cross-reactive among HIV-1 isolates and elicits neutralizing antibodies of broad specificity, the SIV and especially HIV-2 crown peptides were not well recognized by cross-neutralizing antisera. V3 loop peptides of HIV-2 isolates did not elicit neutralizing antibodies in mice, guinea pigs, or a goat and together with SIV V3 peptides did not inhibit serum neutralization of HIV-2 and SIV. Thus, the V3 loops of HIV-2 and SIV do not appear to constitute simple linear neutralizing epitopes. In view of the immunogenicity of V3 peptides, the failure of conserved crown peptides to react with natural sera implies a significant role of loop conformation in antibody recognition. Our studies suggest that in addition to their grouping by envelope genetic relatedness, HIV-2 and SIV are neutralized similarly to each other but differently from HIV-1. The use of linear peptides of HIV-2 and SIV as immunogens may require greater attention to microconformation, and alternate subunit approaches may be needed in exploiting these viruses as vaccine models. Such approaches may also be applicable to the HIV-1 system in which conformational epitopes, in addition to the V3 loop, participate in virus neutralization.
PMCID: PMC241142  PMID: 1374810
15.  Human Non-neutralizing HIV-1 Envelope Monoclonal Antibodies Limit the Number of Founder Viruses during SHIV Mucosal Infection in Rhesus Macaques 
PLoS Pathogens  2015;11(8):e1005042.
HIV-1 mucosal transmission begins with virus or virus-infected cells moving through mucus across mucosal epithelium to infect CD4+ T cells. Although broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) are the type of HIV-1 antibodies that are most likely protective, they are not induced with current vaccine candidates. In contrast, antibodies that do not neutralize primary HIV-1 strains in the TZM-bl infection assay are readily induced by current vaccine candidates and have also been implicated as secondary correlates of decreased HIV-1 risk in the RV144 vaccine efficacy trial. Here, we have studied the capacity of anti-Env monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against either the immunodominant region of gp41 (7B2 IgG1), the first constant region of gp120 (A32 IgG1), or the third variable loop (V3) of gp120 (CH22 IgG1) to modulate in vivo rectal mucosal transmission of a high-dose simian-human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV-BaL) in rhesus macaques. 7B2 IgG1 or A32 IgG1, each containing mutations to enhance Fc function, was administered passively to rhesus macaques but afforded no protection against productive clinical infection while the positive control antibody CH22 IgG1 prevented infection in 4 of 6 animals. Enumeration of transmitted/founder (T/F) viruses revealed that passive infusion of each of the three antibodies significantly reduced the number of T/F genomes. Thus, some antibodies that bind HIV-1 Env but fail to neutralize virus in traditional neutralization assays may limit the number of T/F viruses involved in transmission without leading to enhancement of viral infection. For one of these mAbs, gp41 mAb 7B2, we provide the first co-crystal structure in complex with a common cyclical loop motif demonstrated to be critical for infection by other retroviruses.
Author Summary
Antibodies specifically recognize antigenic sites on pathogens and can mediate multiple antiviral functions through engagement of effector cells via their Fc region. Current HIV-1 vaccine candidates induce polyclonal antibody responses with multiple antiviral functions, but do not induce broadly neutralizing antibodies. An improved understanding of whether certain types of non-neutralizing HIV-1 specific antibodies can individually protect against HIV-1 infection may facilitate vaccine development. Here, we test whether non-neutralizing antibodies with multiple antiviral functions mediated through FcR engagement and recognition of virus particles or virus-infected cells can limit infection, despite lacking classical virus neutralization activity. In a passive antibody infusion-rhesus macaque challenge model, we tested the ability of non-neutralizing monoclonal antibodies to limit virus acquisition. We demonstrate that two different types of non-neutralizing antibodies, one that recognizes both virus particles and infected cells (7B2) and another that recognizes only infected cells (A32) were capable of decreasing the number of transmitted founder viruses. Further, we provide the structure of 7B2 in complex with the gp41 cyclical loop motif, a motif critical for entry. These findings provide insights into the role that antibodies with antiviral properties, including virion capture and FcR mediated effector function, may play in protecting against HIV-1 acquisition.
PMCID: PMC4523205  PMID: 26237403
16.  Proline-rich tandem repeats of antibody complementarity-determining regions bind and neutralize human immunodeficiency virus type 1 particles. 
Journal of Virology  1996;70(10):6557-6562.
The proline-rich tandem repeat domain of human mucin MUC1 forms an extended structure containing large repeating loops that are crested by a turn. We show that the repeating-loop structure of MUC1 can be replaced by an antibody complementarity-determining region loop of a human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-specific neutralizing antibody to create a chimeric, multivalent, mucin-like, anti-HIV-1 compound. We used 8 residues of an antibody molecule to replace 8 of 20 residues of the MUC1 tandem-repeat sequence. The antiviral peptide discussed here contains three copies of a 20-residue tandem repeat, (IYYDYEEDPAPGSTAPPAHG)3, for a total of 60 residues. We demonstrate that the mucin-antibody chimera retains the binding specificity of the parent antibody (monoclonal antibody F58), GPGR of the HIV-1 gp120 V3 neutralizing epitope, and the ability to neutralize virus particles. In inhibition enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, the mucin-antibody chimeric peptide could inhibit 71 to 84% of binding to a V3 loop peptide by monoclonal antibodies known to be specific for GPGR in the V3 loop. The mucin-antibody chimeric peptide could also inhibit monoclonal antibody binding to native gp120 captured from virus particles. In addition, the chimeric peptide neutralized the homologous HIV-IIIB virus in a standard neutralization assay. The methods of antiviral peptide design and construction presented here are general and theoretically limited only by the size of the antibody repertoire. This approach could be used to synthesize peptides for a variety of therapeutic applications.
PMCID: PMC190696  PMID: 8794290
17.  Alteration of V3 loop context within the envelope of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 enhances neutralization. 
Journal of Virology  1994;68(6):3459-3466.
Neutralization of a chimeric human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) type 1, containing the V3 loop of the MN isolate substituted within the HXB2 envelope, was enhanced up to 20-fold compared with the HXB2 or MN parental isolates by human HIV-positive sera. MN V3 loop-specific monoclonal antibodies were better able to recognize the chimeric virus compared with MN, staining a greater percentage of infected cells and exhibiting slight increases in relative affinity with a concomitant increase in neutralization titer. Competition analysis revealed that enhanced neutralization by human HIV-positive sera of the chimera was attributable in some cases to better reactivity with the linear V3 loop epitope but in others to conformational loop epitopes or previously cryptic or poorly recognized epitopes outside the loop region. Mice primed with a vaccinia virus-chimeric envelope recombinant and boosted with gp160 developed a spectrum of antibodies different from that of mice similarly immunized with HXB2 or MN recombinants or that of naturally infected humans. The chimeric envelope elicited antibodies with enhanced binding to the native MN V3 loop; however, the sites seen by the BALB/c mice were not neutralizing epitopes. Nevertheless, similar to the observations made with use of human sera, the chimeric virus was more readily neutralized by all of the immune mouse sera, an effect apparently mediated by non-V3 loop epitopes. These studies illustrate that not only the V3 loop sequence and conformation but also its context within the viral envelope influence neutralization.
PMCID: PMC236848  PMID: 7514675
18.  The Thai Phase III HIV Type 1 Vaccine Trial (RV144) Regimen Induces Antibodies That Target Conserved Regions Within the V2 Loop of gp120 
AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses  2012;28(11):1444-1457.
The Thai Phase III clinical trial (RV144) showed modest efficacy in preventing HIV-1 acquisition. Plasma collected from HIV-1-uninfected trial participants completing all injections with ALVAC-HIV (vCP1521) prime and AIDSVAX B/E boost were tested for antibody responses against HIV-1 gp120 envelope (Env). Peptide microarray analysis from six HIV-1 subtypes and group M consensus showed that vaccination induced antibody responses to the second variable (V2) loop of gp120 of multiple subtypes. We further evaluated V2 responses by ELISA and surface plasmon resonance using cyclic (Cyc) and linear V2 loop peptides. Thirty-one of 32 vaccine recipients tested (97%) had antibody responses against Cyc V2 at 2 weeks postimmunization with a reciprocal geometric mean titer (GMT) of 1100 (range: 200–3200). The frequency of detecting plasma V2 antibodies declined to 19% at 28 weeks post-last injection (GMT: 110, range: 100–200). Antibody responses targeted the mid-region of the V2 loop that contains conserved epitopes and has the amino acid sequence KQKVHALFYKLDIVPI (HXB2 Numbering sequence 169–184). Valine at position 172 was critical for antibody binding. The frequency of V3 responses at 2 weeks postimmunization was modest (18/32, 56%) with a GMT of 185 (range: 100–800). In contrast, naturally infected HIV-1 individuals had a lower frequency of antibody responses to V2 (10/20, 50%; p=0.003) and a higher frequency of responses to V3 (19/20, 95%), with GMTs of 400 (range: 100–3200) and 3570 (range: 200–12,800), respectively. RV144 vaccination induced antibodies that targeted a region of the V2 loop that contains conserved epitopes. Early HIV-1 transmission events involve V2 loop interactions, raising the possibility that anti-V2 antibodies in RV144 may have contributed to viral inhibition.
PMCID: PMC3484815  PMID: 23035746
19.  Limited Neutralizing Antibody Specificities Drive Neutralization Escape in Early HIV-1 Subtype C Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(9):e1000598.
We previously showed that HIV-1 subtype C viruses elicit potent but highly type-specific neutralizing antibodies (nAb) within the first year of infection. In order to determine the specificity and evolution of these autologous nAbs, we examined neutralization escape in four individuals whose responses against the earliest envelope differed in magnitude and potency. Neutralization escape occurred in all participants, with later viruses showing decreased sensitivity to contemporaneous sera, although they retained sensitivity to new nAb responses. Early nAb responses were very restricted, occurring sequentially and targeting only two regions of the envelope. In V1V2, limited amino acid changes often involving indels or glycans, mediated partial or complete escape, with nAbs targeting the V1V2 region directly in 2 cases. The alpha-2 helix of C3 was also a nAb target, with neutralization escape associated with changes to positively charged residues. In one individual, relatively high titers of anti-C3 nAbs were required to drive genetic escape, taking up to 7 weeks for the resistant variant to predominate. Thereafter titers waned but were still measurable. Development of this single anti-C3 nAb specificity was associated with a 7-fold drop in HIV-1 viral load and a 4-fold rebound as the escape mutation emerged. Overall, our data suggest the development of a very limited number of neutralizing antibody specificities during the early stages of HIV-1 subtype C infection, with temporal fluctuations in specificities as escape occurs. While the mechanism of neutralization escape appears to vary between individuals, the involvement of limited regions suggests there might be common vulnerabilities in the HIV-1 subtype C transmitted envelope.
Author Summary
Most HIV-1 infected individuals develop neutralizing antibodies against their own virus, termed an autologous neutralizing response. It is known that this response exerts pressure on the envelope of HIV, the target of such antibodies, resulting in neutralization escape. Here we have identified the targets of these antibodies and the precise genetic basis of neutralization escape in 4 individuals infected with HIV-1 subtype C. We show that V1V2 is commonly involved in escape, and that the C3 region is also a target in some cases. The latter observation confirms this region is exposed in subtype C, unlike subtype B. We show that neutralization escape is conferred by a few amino acid mutations, some of which are outside the antibody target site. Moreover, escape from these limited specificities even within a single individual occurs via a variety of different pathways involving substitutions, indels and glycan shifts. The finding in 2 individuals that an anti-C3 response developed first, followed by an anti-V1V2 response, suggests there may be specific regions of envelope particularly vulnerable to antibody neutralization. Overall, we propose a mechanistic explanation for how HIV-1 epitopes drive sequential waves of neutralization escape in early subtype C infection.
PMCID: PMC2742164  PMID: 19763271
20.  Structure determination of an anti-HIV-1 Fab 447-52D–peptide complex from an epitaxially twinned data set 
Separation of two individual lattices within an epitaxially twinned data set allowed the crystal structure of the V3-specific neutralizing antibody 447-52D in complex with a V3 peptide (UG1033) to be determined. The structure confirms that the neutralization breadth of Fab 447-52D is likely to be attributable to the extensive focus on main-chain hydrogen-bond interactions with the peptide that permit the recognition of a range of V3 sequences.
Although antibodies against the third variable loop (V3) of the HIV-1 viral envelope glycoprotein are among the first neutralizing antibodies to be detected in infected individuals, they are normally restricted in their specificity. X-ray crystallo­graphic studies of V3-specific antibodies have con­tributed to a more thorough understanding of recognition of this epitope and of conserved features in the V3 loop that could potentially aid in the design of a multi-component vaccine. The human antibody 447-52D exhibits relatively broad neutralization of primary viral isolates compared with other V3-loop antibodies. A crystal structure of Fab 447-52D in complex with a V3 peptide (UG1033) was determined at 2.1 Å resolution. The structure was determined using an epitaxially twinned data set and in-house programs to detect and remove overlapping reflections. Although the processed data have lower than desired completeness and slightly higher than normal R values for the resolution, good-quality electron-density maps were obtained that enabled structure determination. The structure revealed an extended CDR H3 loop that forms a β-sheet with the peptide, with the predominant contacts being main-chain hydrogen bonds. The V3 peptide and Fab show high structural homology with the previously reported structures of other Fab 447-52D complexes, reinforcing the idea that the V3 loop may adopt a small set of conserved structures, particularly around the crown of the β-hairpin.
PMCID: PMC2631122  PMID: 18566514
antibodies; HIV-1; twinning; V3 loop
21.  Targeted Isolation of Antibodies Directed against Major Sites of SIV Env Vulnerability 
PLoS Pathogens  2016;12(4):e1005537.
The simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) challenge model of lentiviral infection is often used as a model to human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) for studying vaccine mediated and immune correlates of protection. However, knowledge of the structure of the SIV envelope (Env) glycoprotein is limited, as is knowledge of binding specificity, function and potential efficacy of SIV antibody responses. In this study we describe the use of a competitive probe binding sort strategy as well as scaffolded probes for targeted isolation of SIV Env-specific monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). We isolated nearly 70 SIV-specific mAbs directed against major sites of SIV Env vulnerability analogous to broadly neutralizing antibody (bnAb) targets of HIV-1, namely, the CD4 binding site (CD4bs), CD4-induced (CD4i)-site, peptide epitopes in variable loops 1, 2 and 3 (V1, V2, V3) and potentially glycan targets of SIV Env. The range of SIV mAbs isolated includes those exhibiting varying degrees of neutralization breadth and potency as well as others that demonstrated binding but not neutralization. Several SIV mAbs displayed broad and potent neutralization of a diverse panel of 20 SIV viral isolates with some also neutralizing HIV-27312A. This extensive panel of SIV mAbs will facilitate more effective use of the SIV non-human primate (NHP) model for understanding the variables in development of a HIV vaccine or immunotherapy.
Author Summary
An antibody-based approach targeting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) envelope (Env) protein may eventually prove to be effective in treating or preventing HIV infection. However, before any candidate HIV treatment or vaccine can be tested in humans, it must first be evaluated in nonhuman primates (NHPs)–the closest living relatives to humans. Simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) is the closest available non-chimeric virus—NHP model for studying and testing HIV vaccines or therapies. The SIV model complements the simian-human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV) model in distinctive ways, although less is known about SIV Env-specific antibody responses in NHPs. There are several sites on HIV Env that are vulnerable to antibody-mediated protection, and here we isolated and analyzed monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) from NHPs targeting analogous sites on SIV Env. In particular, we studied mAbs for their ability to bind the viral Env protein and to block infection of cells by widely divergent strains of SIV. These well-characterized SIV Env-specific antibodies will allow for more thorough NHP pre-clinical testing of various antibody-based SIV/HIV vaccine and immunotherapeutic strategies before proceeding to human clinical trials and may yield unanticipated findings relating to molecular mechanisms underlying the unusual breadth of neutralization observed in HIV-2 infection.
PMCID: PMC4827850  PMID: 27064278
22.  The C3-V4 Region Is a Major Target of Autologous Neutralizing Antibodies in Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Subtype C Infection▿  
Journal of Virology  2007;82(4):1860-1869.
The early autologous neutralizing antibody response in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) subtype C infections is often characterized by high titers, but the response is type specific with little to no cross-neutralizing activity. The specificities of these early neutralizing antibodies are not known; however, the type specificity suggests that they may target the variable regions of the envelope. Here, we show that cross-reactive anti-V3 antibodies developed within 3 to 12 weeks in six individuals but did not mediate autologous neutralization. Using a series of chimeric viruses, we found that antibodies directed at the V1V2, V4, and V5 regions contributed to autologous neutralization in some individuals, with V1V2 playing a more substantial role. However, these antibodies did not account for the total neutralizing capacity of these sera against the early autologous virus. Antibodies directed against the C3-V4 region were involved in autologous neutralization in all four sera studied. In two sera, transfer of the C3-V4 region rendered the chimera as sensitive to antibody neutralization as the parental virus. Although the C3 region, which contains the highly variable α2-helix was not a direct target in most cases, it contributed to the formation of neutralization epitopes as substitution of this region resulted in neutralization resistance. These data suggest that the C3 and V4 regions combine to form important structural motifs and that epitopes in this region are major targets of the early autologous neutralizing response in HIV-1 subtype C infection.
PMCID: PMC2258729  PMID: 18057243
23.  Comparable Antigenicity and Immunogenicity of Oligomeric Forms of a Novel, Acute HIV-1 Subtype C gp145 Envelope for Use in Preclinical and Clinical Vaccine Research 
Journal of Virology  2015;89(15):7478-7493.
Eliciting broadly reactive functional antibodies remains a challenge in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) vaccine development that is complicated by variations in envelope (Env) subtype and structure. The majority of new global HIV-1 infections are subtype C, and novel antigenic properties have been described for subtype C Env proteins. Thus, an HIV-1 subtype C Env protein (CO6980v0c22) from an infected person in the acute phase (Fiebig stage I/II) was developed as a research reagent and candidate immunogen. The gp145 envelope is a novel immunogen with a fully intact membrane-proximal external region (MPER), extended by a polylysine tail. Soluble gp145 was enriched for trimers that yielded the expected “fan blade” motifs when visualized by cryoelectron microscopy. CO6980v0c22 gp145 reacts with the 4E10, PG9, PG16, and VRC01 HIV-1 neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (MAbs), as well as the V1/V2-specific PGT121, 697, 2158, and 2297 MAbs. Different gp145 oligomers were tested for immunogenicity in rabbits, and purified dimers, trimers, and larger multimers elicited similar levels of cross-subtype binding and neutralizing antibodies to tier 1 and some tier 2 viruses. Immunized rabbit sera did not neutralize the highly resistant CO6980v0c22 pseudovirus but did inhibit the homologous infectious molecular clone in a peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) assay. This Env is currently in good manufacturing practice (GMP) production to be made available for use as a clinical research tool and further evaluation as a candidate vaccine.
IMPORTANCE At present, the product pipeline for HIV vaccines is insufficient and is limited by inadequate capacity to produce large quantities of vaccine to standards required for human clinical trials. Such products are required to evaluate critical questions of vaccine formulation, route, dosing, and schedule, as well as to establish vaccine efficacy. The gp145 Env protein presented in this study forms physical trimers, binds to many of the well-characterized broad neutralizing MAbs that target conserved Env epitopes, and induce cross-subtype neutralizing antibodies as measured in both cell line and primary cell assays. This subtype C Env gp145 protein is currently undergoing good manufacturing practice production for use as a reagent for preclinical studies and for human clinical research. This product will serve as a reagent for comparative studies and may represent a next-generation candidate HIV immunogen.
PMCID: PMC4505676  PMID: 25972551
24.  Heavy Chain-Only IgG2b Llama Antibody Effects Near-Pan HIV-1 Neutralization by Recognizing a CD4-Induced Epitope That Includes Elements of Coreceptor- and CD4-Binding Sites 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(18):10173-10181.
The conserved HIV-1 site of coreceptor binding is protected from antibody-directed neutralization by conformational and steric restrictions. While inaccessible to most human antibodies, the coreceptor site has been shown to be accessed by antibody fragments. In this study, we used X-ray crystallography, surface plasmon resonance, and pseudovirus neutralization to characterize the gp120-envelope glycoprotein recognition and HIV-1 neutralization of a heavy chain-only llama antibody, named JM4. We describe full-length IgG2b and IgG3 versions of JM4 that target the coreceptor-binding site and potently neutralize over 95% of circulating HIV-1 isolates. Contrary to established trends that show improved access to the coreceptor-binding region by smaller antibody fragments, the single-domain (VHH) version of JM4 neutralized less well than the full-length IgG2b version of JM4. The crystal structure at 2.1-Å resolution of VHH JM4 bound to HIV-1 YU2 gp120 stabilized in the CD4-bound state by the CD4-mimetic miniprotein, M48U1, revealed a JM4 epitope that combined regions of coreceptor recognition (including the gp120 bridging sheet, V3 loop, and β19 strand) with gp120 structural elements involved in recognition of CD4 such as the CD4-binding loop. The structure of JM4 with gp120 thus defines a novel CD4-induced site of vulnerability involving elements of both coreceptor- and CD4-binding sites. The potently neutralizing JM4 IgG2b antibody that targets this newly defined site of vulnerability adds to the expanding repertoire of broadly neutralizing antibodies that effectively neutralize HIV-1 and thereby potentially provides a new template for vaccine development and target for HIV-1 therapy.
PMCID: PMC3753989  PMID: 23843638
25.  Distinct Mechanisms Regulate Exposure of Neutralizing Epitopes in the V2 and V3 Loops of HIV-1 Envelope 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(21):12853-12865.
Broadly neutralizing antibodies targeting the HIV-1 envelope (Env) are key components for protection against HIV-1. However, many cross-reactive epitopes are often occluded. This study investigates the mechanisms contributing to the masking of V2i (variable loop V2 integrin) epitopes compared to the accessibility of V3 epitopes. V2i are conformation-dependent epitopes encompassing the integrin α4β7-binding motif on the V1V2 loop of HIV-1 Env gp120. The V2i monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) display extensive cross-reactivity with gp120 monomers from many subtypes but neutralize only few viruses, indicating V2i's cryptic nature. First, we asked whether CD4-induced Env conformational changes affect V2i epitopes similarly to V3. CD4 treatment of BaL and JRFL pseudoviruses increased their neutralization sensitivity to V3 MAbs but not to the V2i MAbs. Second, the contribution of N-glycans in masking V2i versus V3 epitopes was evaluated by testing the neutralization of pseudoviruses produced in the presence of a glycosidase inhibitor, kifunensine. Viruses grown in kifunensine were more sensitive to neutralization by V3 but not V2i MAbs. Finally, we evaluated the time-dependent dynamics of the V2i and V3 epitopes. Extending the time of virus-MAb interaction to 18 h before adding target cells increased virus neutralization by some V2i MAbs and all V3 MAbs tested. Consistent with this, V2i MAb binding to Env on the surface of transfected cells also increased in a time-dependent manner. Hence, V2i and V3 epitopes are highly dynamic, but distinct factors modulate the antibody accessibility of these epitopes. The study reveals the importance of the structural dynamics of V2i and V3 epitopes in determining HIV-1 neutralization by antibodies targeting these sites.
IMPORTANCE Conserved neutralizing epitopes are present in the V1V2 and V3 regions of HIV-1 Env, but these epitopes are often occluded from Abs. This study reveals that distinct mechanisms contribute to the masking of V3 epitopes and V2i epitopes in the V1V2 domain. Importantly, V3 MAbs and some V2i MAbs display greater neutralization against relatively resistant HIV-1 isolates when the MAbs interact with the virus for a prolonged period of time. Given their highly immunogenic nature, V3 and V2i epitopes are valuable targets that would augment the efficacy of HIV vaccines.
PMCID: PMC4248937  PMID: 25165106

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