One strategy for isolating or eliciting antibodies against a specific target region on the envelope glycoprotein trimer (Env) of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) involves the creation of site transplants, which present the target region on a heterologous protein scaffold with preserved antibody-binding properties. If the target region is a supersite of HIV-1 vulnerability, recognized by a collection of broadly neutralizing antibodies, this strategy affords the creation of “supersite transplants”, capable of binding (and potentially eliciting) antibodies similar to the template collection of effective antibodies. Here we transplant three supersites of HIV-1 vulnerability, each targeted by effective neutralizing antibodies from multiple donors. To implement our strategy, we chose a single representative antibody against each of the target supersites: antibody 10E8, which recognizes the membrane-proximal external region (MPER) on the HIV-1 gp41 glycoprotein; antibody PG9, which recognizes variable regions one and two (V1V2) on the HIV-1 gp120 glycoprotein; and antibody PGT128 which recognizes a glycopeptide supersite in variable region 3 (glycan V3) on gp120. We used a structural alignment algorithm to identify suitable acceptor proteins, and then designed, expressed, and tested antigenically over 100-supersite transplants in a 96-well microtiter-plate format. The majority of the supersite transplants failed to maintain the antigenic properties of their respective template supersite. However, seven of the glycan V3-supersite transplants exhibited nanomolar affinity to effective neutralizing antibodies from at least three donors and recapitulated the mannose9-N-linked glycan requirement of the template supersite. The binding of these transplants could be further enhanced by placement into self-assembling nanoparticles. Essential elements of the glycan V3 supersite, embodied by as few as 3 N-linked glycans and ∼25 Env residues, can be segregated into acceptor scaffolds away from the immune-evading capabilities of the rest of HIV-1 Env, thereby providing a means to focus the immune response on the scaffolded supersite.
HIV-1 uses a diverse N-linked-glycan shield to evade recognition by antibody. Select human antibodies, such as the clonally related PG9 and PG16, recognize glycopeptide epitopes in the HIV-1 V1–V2 region and penetrate this shield, but their ability to accommodate diverse glycans is unclear. Here we report the structure of antibody PG16 bound to a scaffolded V1–V2, showing an epitope comprising both high mannose–type and complex-type N-linked glycans. We combined structure, NMR and mutagenesis analyses to characterize glycan recognition by PG9 and PG16. Three PG16-specific residues, arginine, serine and histidine (RSH), were critical for binding sialic acid on complex-type glycans, and introduction of these residues into PG9 produced a chimeric antibody with enhanced HIV-1 neutralization. Although HIV-1–glycan diversity facilitates evasion, antibody somatic diversity can overcome this and can provide clues to guide the design of modified antibodies with enhanced neutralization.
Vaccines are among the greatest successes in the history of public health. However, past strategies for vaccine development are unlikely to succeed in the future against major global diseases such as AIDS, TB, and malaria. For such diseases, the correlates of protection are poorly defined and the pathogens evade immune detection and/or exhibit extensive genetic variability. Recent advances have heralded in a new era of vaccine discovery. However, translation of these advances into vaccines remains impeded by lack of understanding of key vaccinology principles in humans. We review these advances towards vaccine discovery and suggest that for accelerating successful vaccine development, new human immunology-based clinical research initiatives be implemented with the goal of elucidating and more effectively inducing vaccine-induced protective immune responses.
Antibodies of the VRC01 class neutralize HIV-1, arise in diverse HIV-1-infected donors, and are potential templates for an effective HIV-1 vaccine. However, the stochastic processes that generate repertoires in each individual of >1012 antibodies make elicitation of specific antibodies uncertain. Here we determine the ontogeny of the VRC01 class by crystallography and next-generation sequencing. Despite antibody-sequence differences exceeding 50%, antibody-gp120 cocrystal structures reveal VRC01-class recognition to be remarkably similar. B cell transcripts indicate that VRC01-class antibodies require few specific genetic elements, suggesting that naive-B cells with VRC01-class features are generated regularly by recombination. Virtually all of these fail to mature, however, with only a few—likely one—ancestor B cell expanding to form a VRC01-class lineage in each donor. Developmental similarities in multiple donors thus reveal the generation of VRC01-class antibodies to be reproducible in principle, thereby providing a framework for attempts to elicit similar antibodies in the general population.
A new class of glycan-reactive HIV-neutralizing antibodies, including PG9 and PG16, has been recently discovered that appear to recognize novel glycopeptide epitopes on HIV-1 gp120. However, further characterization and reconstitution of the precise neutralizing epitopes are complicated by the heterogeneity of glycosylation. We report here the design, synthesis, and antigenic evaluation of novel cyclic V1V2 glycopeptides carrying defined N-linked glycans at the conserved glycosylation sites (N160 and N156/N173) derived from gp120 of two HIV-1 isolates. Antibody binding studies confirmed the necessity of a Man5GlcNAc2 glycan at N160 for recognition by PG9 and PG16, and further revealed a critical role of a sialylated N-glycan at the secondary site (N156/N173) in the context of glycopeptides for antibody binding. In addition to defining the glycan specificities of PG9 and PG16, the identified synthetic glycopeptides provide a valuable template for HIV-1 vaccine design.
The recent announcement that a replication defective adenovirus-type 5 Gag-Pol-Nef HIV-1 vaccine developed by Merck failed in the STEP human Phase IIb efficacy trial to either prevent HIV-1 infection or to suppress viral load in subjects who subsequently became infected, was predicted by studies that had evaluated analogous vaccines in the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) challenge/rhesus macaque model. In contrast, vaccine protection studies in macaques that used a chimeric simian-human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV89.6P) challenge failed to predict the human trial results. Adenovirus-vector based vaccines did not protect animals from infection after SHIV89.6P challenge but did cause a substantial reduction in viral load and a preservation of CD4+ T-cell counts post-infection, findings that were not reproduced in the human trials. While disappointing for the clinical development of Merck’s vaccine candidate, these studies now enable vaccine designers to utilize the SIV-challenged macaque model with more confidence, thus facilitating the future prioritization of candidate vaccines. Vaccine designers must now develop T-cell vaccine strategies that reduce viral load after heterologous challenge.
It has been suggested that poor immunogenicity may explain the lack of vaccine efficacy in preventing or controlling HIV infection in the Step trial. To investigate this issue we vaccinated eight Indian rhesus macaques with a trivalent replication-incompetent adenovirus serotype 5 vaccine expressing SIV Gag, Pol, and Nef using a regimen similar to that employed in the Step trial. We detected broad vaccine-induced CD8+ (2–7 pool-specific responses) and CD4+ (5–19 pool-specific responses) T-cell responses in IFN-γ ELISPOT assays at one week post-boost using fresh PBMC. However, using cryopreserved cells at one and four weeks post-boost we observed a reduction in both the number and magnitude of most vaccine-induced responses. This demonstrates that the time points and conditions chosen to perform immune assays may influence the observed breadth and frequency of vaccine-induced T-cell responses. To evaluate protective efficacy, we challenged the immunized macaques, along with naïve controls, with repeated, limiting doses of the heterologous swarm isolate SIVsmE660. Vaccination did not significantly affect acquisition or control of virus replication in vaccinees compared to naïve controls. Post-infection we observed an average of only two anamnestic CD8+ T-cell responses per animal, which may not have been sufficiently broad to control heterologous virus replication. While the trivalent vaccine regimen induced relatively broad T-cell responses in rhesus macaques, it failed to protect against infection or control viral replication. Our results are consistent with those observed in the Step trial and indicate that SIV immunization and challenge studies in macaque models of HIV infection can be informative in assessing pre-clinical HIV vaccines.
HIV vaccine; Adenovirus serotype 5; Simian Immunodeficiency Virus; CD8+ T cells; CD4+ T cells; Step trial
Dozens of broadly neutralizing HIV-1 antibodies have been isolated in the last few years from the sera of HIV-1-infected individuals. Only a limited number of regions on the HIV-1 spike, however, are recognized by these antibodies. One of these regions (N332) is characterized by an N-linked glycan at residue 332 on HIV-1 gp120 and is recognized by antibody 2G12 and by the recently reported antibodies PGT121-137, the latter isolated from three donors. To investigate the diversity in mode of antibody recognition at the N332 site, we used functional complementation between antibody heavy and light chains as a means of assessing similarity in mode of recognition. We examined a matrix of 12 PGT-heavy chains with each of 12 PGT-light chains. Expression in 96-well format for the 144 antibodies (132 chimeric and 12 wild-type) was generally consistent (58±10 µg/ml). In contrast, recognition of HIV-1 gp120 was bimodal: when the source of heavy and light chains was from the same donor, recognition was good; when sources of heavy and light chains were from different donors, recognition was poor. Moreover, neutralization of HIV-1 strains SF162.LS and TRO.11 generally followed patterns of gp120 recognition. These results are consistent with published sequence, mutational, and structural findings, all of which indicate that N332-directed neutralizing antibodies from different donors utilize different modes of recognition, and provide support for a correlation between functional complementation of antibody heavy and light chains and similarity in antibody mode of recognition. Overall, our results add to the growing body of evidence that the human immune system is capable of recognizing the N332-region of HIV-1 gp120 in diverse ways.
Antibody PG9 is a prototypical member of a class of V1/V2-directed antibodies that effectively neutralizes diverse strains of HIV-1. We analyzed strain-specific resistance to PG9 using sequence and structural information. For multiply resistant strains, mutations in a short segment of V1/V2 resulted in gain of sensitivity to PG9 and related V1/V2 neutralizing antibodies, suggesting both a common mechanism of HIV-1 resistance to and a common mode of recognition by this class of antibodies.
Variable regions 1 and 2 (V1/V2) of human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) gp120 envelope glycoprotein are critical for viral evasion of antibody neutralization, and are themselves protected by extraordinary sequence diversity and N-linked glycosylation. Human antibodies such as PG9 nonetheless engage V1/V2 and neutralize 80% of HIV-1 isolates. Here we report the structure of V1/V2 in complex with PG9. V1/V2 forms a four-stranded β-sheet domain, in which sequence diversity and glycosylation are largely segregated to strand-connecting loops. PG9 recognition involves electrostatic, sequence-independent and glycan interactions: the latter account for over half the interactive surface but are of sufficiently weak affinity to avoid autoreactivity. The structures of V1/V2-directed antibodies CH04 and PGT145 indicate that they share a common mode of glycan penetration by extended anionic loops. In addition to structurally defining V1/V2, the results thus identify a paradigm of antibody recognition for highly glycosylated antigens, which—with PG9—involves a site of vulnerability comprising just two glycans and a strand.
Antibody VRC01 is a human immunoglobulin that neutralizes about 90% of HIV-1 isolates. To understand how such broadly neutralizing antibodies develop, we used x-ray crystallography and 454 pyrosequencing to characterize additional VRC01-like antibodies from HIV-1–infected individuals. Crystal structures revealed a convergent mode of binding for diverse antibodies to the same CD4-binding-site epitope. A functional genomics analysis of expressed heavy and light chains revealed common pathways of antibody-heavy chain maturation, confined to the IGHV1-2*02 lineage, involving dozens of somatic changes, and capable of pairing with different light chains. Broadly neutralizing HIV-1 immunity associated with VRC01-like antibodies thus involves the evolution of antibodies to a highly affinity-matured state required to recognize an invariant viral structure, with lineages defined from thousands of sequences providing a genetic roadmap of their development.
Select HIV-1-infected individuals develop sera capable of neutralizing diverse viral strains. The molecular basis of this neutralization is currently being deciphered by the isolation of HIV-1-neutralizing antibodies. In one infected donor, three neutralizing antibodies, PGT135–137, were identified by assessment of neutralization from individually sorted B cells and found to recognize an epitope containing an N-linked glycan at residue 332 on HIV-1 gp120. Here we use next-generation sequencing and bioinformatics methods to interrogate the B cell record of this donor to gain a more complete understanding of the humoral immune response. PGT135–137-gene family specific primers were used to amplify heavy-chain and light-chain variable-domain sequences. Pyrosequencing produced 141,298 heavy-chain sequences of IGHV4-39 origin and 87,229 light-chain sequences of IGKV3-15 origin. A number of heavy and light-chain sequences of ∼90% identity to PGT137, several to PGT136, and none of high identity to PGT135 were identified. After expansion of these sequences to include close phylogenetic relatives, a total of 202 heavy-chain sequences and 72 light-chain sequences were identified. These sequences were clustered into populations of 95% identity comprising 15 for heavy chain and 10 for light chain, and a select sequence from each population was synthesized and reconstituted with a PGT137-partner chain. Reconstituted antibodies showed varied neutralization phenotypes for HIV-1 clade A and D isolates. Sequence diversity of the antibody population represented by these tested sequences was notably higher than observed with a 454 pyrosequencing-control analysis on 10 antibodies of defined sequence, suggesting that this diversity results primarily from somatic maturation. Our results thus provide an example of how pathogens like HIV-1 are opposed by a varied humoral immune response, derived from intrinsic mechanisms of antibody development, and embodied by somatic populations of diverse antibodies.
antibody bioinformatics; high-throughput sequencing; HIV-1; immunity; N-linked glycan
Broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) against highly variable viral pathogens are much sought-after to treat or protect against global circulating viruses. We have probed the neutralizing antibody repertoires of four HIV-infected donors with remarkably broad and potent neutralizing responses and rescued 17 new monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) that neutralize broadly across clades. Many of the new MAbs are almost 10-fold more potent than the recently described PG9, PG16, and VRC01 bnMAbs and 100-fold more potent than the original prototype HIV bnMAbs1–3. The MAbs largely recapitulate the neutralization breadth found in the corresponding donor serum and many recognize novel epitopes on envelope (Env) glycoprotein gp120, illuminating new targets for vaccine design. Analysis of neutralization by the full complement of anti-HIV bnMAbs now available reveals that certain combinations of antibodies provide significantly more favorable coverage of the enormous diversity of global circulating viruses than others and these combinations might be sought in active or passive immunization regimes. Overall, the isolation of multiple HIV bnMAbs, from several donors, that, in aggregate, provide broad coverage at low concentrations is a highly positive indicator for the eventual design of an effective antibody-based HIV vaccine.
Translational errors can result in bypassing of the main viral protein reading frames and the production of alternate reading frame (ARF) or cryptic peptides. Within HIV, there are many such ARFs in both sense and the antisense directions of transcription. These ARFs have the potential to generate immunogenic peptides called cryptic epitopes (CE). Both antiretroviral drug therapy and the immune system exert a mutational pressure on HIV-1. Immune pressure exerted by ARF CD8+ T cells on the virus has already been observed in vitro. HAART has also been described to select HIV-1 variants for drug escape mutations. Since the mutational pressure exerted on one location of the HIV-1 genome can potentially affect the 3 reading frames, we hypothesized that ARF responses would be affected by this drug pressure in vivo.
In this study we identified new ARFs derived from sense and antisense transcription of HIV-1. Many of these ARFs are detectable in circulating viral proteins. They are predominantly found in the HIV-1 env nucleotide region. We measured T cell responses to 199 HIV-1 CE encoded within 13 sense and 34 antisense HIV-1 ARFs. We were able to observe that these ARF responses are more frequent and of greater magnitude in chronically infected individuals compared to acutely infected patients, and in patients on HAART, the breadth of ARF responses increased.
These results have implications for vaccine design and unveil the existence of potential new epitopes that could be included as vaccine targets.
Broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs), which develop over time in some HIV-1 infected individuals, define critical epitopes for HIV vaccine design. Using a systematic approach, we have examined neutralization breadth in the sera of about 1,800 HIV-1 infected individuals, primarily infected with non-clade B viruses, and selected donors for monoclonal antibody (mAb) generation. We then used a high-throughput neutralization screen of antibody-containing culture supernatants from approximately 30,000 activated memory B cells from a clade A-infected African donor to isolate two potent mAbs that target a broadly neutralizing epitope. The previously undescribed epitope is preferentially expressed on trimeric Envelope protein and spans conserved regions of variable loops of the gp120 subunit. The results provide a framework for the design of new vaccine candidates for the elicitation of bNAb responses.
It has recently been shown that polymorphism at the rhesus macaque TRIM5 locus can affect simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) replication. Here we show that TRIM5 alleles can also affect acquisition of SIVsmE660. Animals coexpressing the TRIM5TFP and TRIM5CypA alleles took significantly longer to become infected with SIVsmE660, but not SIVmac239, after repeated limiting-dose intrarectal challenge than did animals expressing other TRIM5 allele combinations. Our results indicate that the TRIM5 alleles can be a barrier to productive infection and that this should be taken into account when designing acquisition studies using SIVsmE660 or related viruses.
An effective human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) vaccine will likely need to reduce mucosal transmission and, if infection occurs, control virus replication. To determine whether our best simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) vaccine can achieve these lofty goals, we vaccinated eight Indian rhesus macaques with SIVmac239Δnef and challenged them intrarectally (i.r.) with repeated low doses of the pathogenic heterologous swarm isolate SIVsmE660. We detected a significant reduction in acquisition of SIVsmE660 in comparison to that for naïve controls (log rank test; P = 0.023). After 10 mucosal challenges, we detected replication of the challenge strain in only five of the eight vaccinated animals. In contrast, seven of the eight control animals became infected with SIVsmE660 after these 10 challenges. Additionally, the SIVsmE660-infected vaccinated animals controlled peak acute virus replication significantly better than did the naïve controls (Mann-Whitney U test; P = 0.038). Four of the five SIVsmE660 vaccinees rapidly brought virus replication under control by week 4 postinfection. Unfortunately, two of these four vaccinated animals lost control of virus replication during the chronic phase of infection. Bulk sequence analysis of the circulating viruses in these animals indicated that recombination had occurred between the vaccine and challenge strains and likely contributed to the increased virus replication in these animals. Overall, our results suggest that a well-designed HIV vaccine might both reduce the rate of acquisition and control viral replication.
The membrane-proximal external region (MPER) of HIV-1, located at the C terminus of the gp41 ectodomain, is conserved and crucial for viral fusion. Three broadly neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (bnMAbs), 2F5, 4E10, and Z13e1, are directed against linear epitopes mapped to the MPER, making this conserved region an important potential vaccine target. However, no MPER antibodies have been definitively shown to provide protection against HIV challenge. Here, we show that both MAbs 2F5 and 4E10 can provide complete protection against mucosal simian-human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV) challenge in macaques. MAb 2F5 or 4E10 was administered intravenously at 50 mg/kg to groups of six male Indian rhesus macaques 1 day prior to and again 1 day following intrarectal challenge with SHIVBa-L. In both groups, five out of six animals showed complete protection and sterilizing immunity, while for one animal in each group a low level of viral replication following challenge could not be ruled out. The study confirms the protective potential of 2F5 and 4E10 and supports emphasis on HIV immunogen design based on the MPER region of gp41.
The development of a rapid and efficient system to identify human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-infected individuals with broad and potent HIV-1-specific neutralizing antibody responses is an important step toward the discovery of critical neutralization targets for rational AIDS vaccine design. In this study, samples from HIV-1-infected volunteers from diverse epidemiological regions were screened for neutralization responses using pseudovirus panels composed of clades A, B, C, and D and circulating recombinant forms (CRFs). Initially, 463 serum and plasma samples from Australia, Rwanda, Uganda, the United Kingdom, and Zambia were screened to explore neutralization patterns and selection ranking algorithms. Samples were identified that neutralized representative isolates from at least four clade/CRF groups with titers above prespecified thresholds and ranked based on a weighted average of their log-transformed neutralization titers. Linear regression methods selected a five-pseudovirus subset, representing clades A, B, and C and one CRF01_AE, that could identify top-ranking samples with 50% inhibitory concentration (IC50) neutralization titers of ≥100 to multiple isolates within at least four clade groups. This reduced panel was then used to screen 1,234 new samples from the Ivory Coast, Kenya, South Africa, Thailand, and the United States, and 1% were identified as elite neutralizers. Elite activity is defined as the ability to neutralize, on average, more than one pseudovirus at an IC50 titer of 300 within a clade group and across at least four clade groups. These elite neutralizers provide promising starting material for the isolation of broadly neutralizing monoclonal antibodies to assist in HIV-1 vaccine design.
Developing an immunogen that elicits broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) is an elusive but important goal of HIV vaccine research, especially after the recent failure of the leading T cell based HIV vaccine in human efficacy trials. Even if such an immunogen can be developed, most animal model studies indicate that high serum neutralizing concentrations of bNAbs are required to provide significant benefit in typical protection experiments. One possible exception is provided by the anti-glycan bNAb 2G12, which has been reported to protect macaques against CXCR4-using SHIV challenge at relatively low serum neutralizing titers. Here, we investigated the ability of 2G12 administered intravenously (i.v.) to protect against vaginal challenge of rhesus macaques with the CCR5-using SHIVSF162P3. The results show that, at 2G12 serum neutralizing titers of the order of 1∶1 (IC90), 3/5 antibody-treated animals were protected with sterilizing immunity, i.e. no detectable virus replication following challenge; one animal showed a delayed and lowered primary viremia and the other animal showed a course of infection similar to 4 control animals. This result contrasts strongly with the typically high titers observed for protection by other neutralizing antibodies, including the bNAb b12. We compared b12 and 2G12 for characteristics that might explain the differences in protective ability relative to neutralizing activity. We found no evidence to suggest that 2G12 transudation to the vaginal surface was significantly superior to b12. We also observed that the ability of 2G12 to inhibit virus replication in target cells through antibody-mediated effector cell activity in vitro was equivalent or inferior to b12. The results raise the possibility that some epitopes on HIV may be better vaccine targets than others and support targeting the glycan shield of the envelope.
An effective HIV vaccine should elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies, i.e. antibodies that neutralize a wide spectrum of different HIVs in vitro. A number of human monoclonal antibodies have been isolated with broad neutralization and shown to protect macaques against vaginal HIV challenge. Protection is generally correlated with neutralization and requires relatively high antibody concentrations that may be difficult to achieve by vaccination. Here, we show that one monoclonal antibody (2G12) is unusually potent in protection relative to its neutralizing ability as hinted at by earlier data. Further studies eliminate an unusual ability of 2G12 to be transported to the vagina (site of infection) as a possible explanation for our observations. Although the precise mechanism is unclear, the studies have important implications for HIV vaccine design in general by suggesting that some vaccine targets on HIV may be better than others and, specifically, by suggesting that the sugar coat of HIV may be a particularly rewarding target if appropriate immunogens can be designed.
An effective AIDS vaccine will need to protect against globally diverse isolates of HIV. To address this issue in macaques, we administered a live-attenuated simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) vaccine and challenged with a highly pathogenic heterologous isolate. Vaccinees reduced viral replication by ∼2 logs between weeks 2–32 (P ≤ 0.049) postchallenge. Remarkably, vaccinees expressing MHC-I (MHC class I) alleles previously associated with viral control completely suppressed acute phase replication of the challenge virus, implicating CD8+ T cells in this control. Furthermore, transient depletion of peripheral CD8+ lymphocytes in four vaccinees during the chronic phase resulted in an increase in virus replication. In two of these animals, the recrudescent virus population contained only the vaccine strain and not the challenge virus. Alarmingly, however, we found evidence of recombinant viruses emerging in some of the vaccinated animals. This finding argues strongly against an attenuated virus vaccine as a solution to the AIDS epidemic. On a more positive note, our results suggest that MHC-I–restricted CD8+ T cells contribute to the protection induced by the live-attenuated SIV vaccine and demonstrate that vaccine-induced CD8+ T cell responses can control replication of heterologous challenge viruses.