Neutralizing antibodies are thought crucial to HIV vaccine protection but a major hurdle is the high antibody concentrations likely required as suggested by studies in animal models1. However, these studies typically apply a large virus inoculum to ensure infection in control animals in single challenge experiments. In contrast, most human infection via sexual encounter probably involves repeated exposures to much lower doses of virus2–4. Therefore, animal studies may have overestimated protective antibody levels in humans. To investigate the impact of virus challenge dose on antibody protection, we repeatedly exposed macaques intravaginally to low doses of a CCR5 coreceptor-using SHIV (an HIV/SIV chimera) in the presence of antibody at plasma concentrations leading to relatively modest neutralization titers of the order of 1:5 IC90 values in a PBMC assay. An effector function deficient variant of the neutralizing antibody was also included. The results show that a significantly greater number of challenges are required to infect animals treated with neutralizing antibody than control antibody-treated animals, and the notion that effector function may contribute to antibody protection is supported. Overall, the results imply that lower levels of antibody than considered hereto may provide benefit in the context of typical human exposure to HIV-1.
Broadly neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (bnMAbs) that target the high-mannose patch centered around the glycan at position 332 on HIV Env are promising vaccine leads and therapeutic candidates as they effectively protect against mucosal SHIV challenge and strongly suppress SHIV viraemia in established infection in macaque models. However, these antibodies demonstrate varying degrees of dependency on the N332 glycan site and the origins of their neutralization breadth are not always obvious. By measuring neutralization on an extended range of glycan site viral variants, we found that some bnMAbs can utilize alternate N-linked glycans in the absence of the N332 glycan site and therefore neutralize a substantial number of viruses lacking the site. Furthermore, many of the antibodies can neutralize viruses in which the N332 glycan site is shifted to the 334 position. Finally, we found that a combination of three antibody families that target the high-mannose patch can lead to 99% neutralization coverage of a large panel of viruses containing the N332/334 glycan site and up to 66% coverage for viruses that lack the N332/334 glycan site. The results indicate that a diverse response against the high-mannose patch may provide near equivalent coverage as a combination of bnMAbs targeting multiple epitopes. Additionally, the ability of some bnMAbs to utilize other N-linked glycan sites can help counter neutralization escape mediated by shifting of glycosylation sites. Overall, this work highlights the importance of promiscuous glycan binding properties in bnMAbs to the high-mannose patch for optimal anti-viral activity either in protective or therapeutic modalities.
The vast majority of currently licensed human vaccines work on the basis of long-term protective antibody responses. It is now conceivable that an antibody-dependent HIV vaccine might be possible, given the discovery of HIV broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) in some HIV-infected individuals. However, these antibodies are difficult to develop and have characteristics indicative of a high degree of affinity maturation in germinal centers (GCs). CD4+ T follicular helper (Tfh) cells are specialized for B cell help and necessary for GCs. Therefore, the development of HIV bnAbs might depend on Tfh cells. Here, we identified in normal individuals a subpopulation of circulating memory PD-1+CXCR5+ CD4+ T cells that are resting memory cells most related to bona fide GC Tfh cells by gene expression profile, cytokine profile, and functional properties. Importantly, the frequency of these cells correlated with the development of bnAbs against HIV in a large cohort of HIV+ individuals.
Since its identification in 1983, HIV-1 has been the focus of a research effort unprecedented in scope and difficulty, whose ultimate goals — a cure and a vaccine – remain elusive. One of the fundamental challenges in accomplishing these goals is the tremendous genetic variability of the virus, with some genes differing at as many as 40% of nucleotide positions among circulating strains. Because of this, the genetic bases of many viral phenotypes, most notably the susceptibility to neutralization by a particular antibody, are difficult to identify computationally. Drawing upon open-source general-purpose machine learning algorithms and libraries, we have developed a software package IDEPI (IDentify EPItopes) for learning genotype-to-phenotype predictive models from sequences with known phenotypes. IDEPI can apply learned models to classify sequences of unknown phenotypes, and also identify specific sequence features which contribute to a particular phenotype. We demonstrate that IDEPI achieves performance similar to or better than that of previously published approaches on four well-studied problems: finding the epitopes of broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNab), determining coreceptor tropism of the virus, identifying compartment-specific genetic signatures of the virus, and deducing drug-resistance associated mutations. The cross-platform Python source code (released under the GPL 3.0 license), documentation, issue tracking, and a pre-configured virtual machine for IDEPI can be found at https://github.com/veg/idepi.
HIV-1-specific monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) with extraordinary potency and breadth have recently been described. In humanized mice, combinations of mAbs have been shown to suppress viremia, but the therapeutic potential of these mAbs has not yet been evaluated in primates with an intact immune system. Here we show that administration of a cocktail of HIV-1-specific mAbs, as well as the single glycan-dependent mAb PGT121, resulted in a rapid and precipitous decline of plasma viremia to undetectable levels in rhesus monkeys chronically infected with the pathogenic virus SHIV-SF162P3. A single mAb infusion afforded up to a 3.1 log decline of plasma viral RNA in 7 days and also reduced proviral DNA in peripheral blood, gastrointestinal mucosa, and lymph nodes without the development of viral resistance. Moreover, following mAb administration, host Gag-specific T lymphocyte responses exhibited improved functionality. Virus rebounded in the majority of animals after a median of 56 days when serum mAb titers had declined to undetectable levels, although a subset of animals maintained long-term virologic control in the absence of further mAb infusions. These data demonstrate a profound therapeutic effect of potent neutralizing HIV-1-specific mAbs in SHIV-infected rhesus monkeys as well as an impact on host immune responses. Our findings strongly encourage the investigation of mAb therapy for HIV-1 in humans.
Broadly neutralizing HIV antibodies (bnAbs) are typically highly somatically mutated, raising doubts as to whether they can be elicited by vaccination. We used 454 sequencing and designed a novel phylogenetic method to model lineage evolution of the bnAbs PGT121–134 and found a positive correlation between the level of somatic hypermutation (SHM) and the development of neutralization breadth and potency. Strikingly, putative intermediates were characterized that show approximately half the mutation level of PGT121–134 but were still capable of neutralizing roughly 40–80% of PGT121–134 sensitive viruses in a 74-virus panel at median titers between 15- and 3-fold higher than PGT121–134. Such antibodies with lower levels of SHM may be more amenable to elicitation through vaccination while still providing noteworthy coverage. Binding characterization indicated a preference of inferred intermediates for native Env binding over monomeric gp120, suggesting that the PGT121–134 lineage may have been selected for binding to native Env at some point during maturation. Analysis of glycan-dependent neutralization for inferred intermediates identified additional adjacent glycans that comprise the epitope and suggests changes in glycan dependency or recognition over the course of affinity maturation for this lineage. Finally, patterns of neutralization of inferred bnAb intermediates suggest hypotheses as to how SHM may lead to potent and broad HIV neutralization and provide important clues for immunogen design.
A majority of the over 30 million HIV-1 infected individuals worldwide live in poorly resourced areas where multiple boost strategies, which are likely needed to generate highly mutated antibodies, present formidable logistical challenges. Accordingly, developing new vaccination strategies that are capable of generating highly mutated antibodies should be an active area of research. Another approach, that is not mutually exclusive, is to identify new bnAbs that are both broad and potent in neutralization, but are much less mutated than the bnAbs that currently exist. Here, we have identified bnAbs that are approximately half the mutation frequency of known bnAbs, but maintain high potency and moderate breadth. These less mutated bnAbs offer an important advantage in that they would likely be easier to induce through vaccination than more mutated antibodies. By characterizing these putative intermediates, we can also better estimate how affinity maturation proceeded to result in an antibody with broad and potent neutralization activity and offer more focused strategies for designing immunogens capable of eliciting these less mutated bnAbs.
Challenge studies following passive immunization with neutralizing antibodies suggest that an HIV vaccine could be efficacious were it able to elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs4). To better understand the requirements for activation of B cells producing bNAbs, we generated cell lines expressing bNAbs or their germline-reverted versions (gl-bNAbs) as BCRs. We then tested the abilities of the bNAb-expressing cells to recognize HIV pseudovirions and vaccine candidate proteins by binding and activation assays. The results suggest that HIV Env antigen-expressing, infection-competent virions are poorly recognized by high affinity bNAb-expressing cells, as measured by the inability of antigens to induce rapid increases in intracellular calcium levels. Other antigen forms appear to be highly stimulatory: in particular, soluble gp140 trimers and a multimerized, scaffolded epitope protein. Virions failed to efficiently activate bNAb-expressing B cells owing to delayed or inefficient BCR recognition, most likely caused by the low density of Env spikes. Importantly, B cells carrying gl-bNAb BCRs were not stimulated by any of the tested vaccine candidates. These data provide insight into why many HIV immunogens, and natural HIV infections, fail to rapidly stimulate bNAb responses and suggest that bNAb-expressing cell lines might be useful tools in evaluation of vaccine antigens for infectious diseases. As soluble Env trimers or multimerized scaffolded epitopes are best at activating B cell expressing bNAbs, these antigenic forms should be considered as preferred vaccine components, though they should be modified to better target naïve gl-bNAb B cells.
Broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) PG9 and PG16 were isolated from an International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) Protocol G subject infected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) clade A. Both antibodies are highly potent and neutralize greater than 70% of viruses tested. We sought to begin immunogen design based on viral sequences from this patient; however, pseudoviruses prepared with 19 envelope sequences from this subject were resistant to neutralization by PG9 and PG16. Therefore, we used a bioinformatics approach to identify closely related viruses that were potentially sensitive to PG9 and PG16. A most-recent common ancestor (MRCA) sequence for the viral envelope (Env) was determined and aligned with 99 subtype A gp160 sequences from the Los Alamos HIV database. Virus BG505.W6M.ENV.C2 (BG505) was found to have the highest degree of homology (73%) to the MRCA sequence. Pseudoviruses prepared with this Env were sensitive to neutralization with a broad panel of bNAbs, including PG9 and PG16. When expressed by 293T cells as soluble gp120, the BG505 monomer bound well to both PG9 and PG16. We further showed that a point mutation (L111A) enabled more efficient production of a stable gp120 monomer that preserves the major neutralization epitopes. Finally, we showed that an adjuvanted formulation of this gp120 protein elicited neutralizing antibodies in rabbits (following a gp120 DNA vaccine prime) and that the antisera competed with bNAbs from 3 classes of nonoverlapping epitopes. Thus, the BG505 Env protein warrants further investigation as an HIV vaccine candidate, as a stand-alone protein, or as a component of a vaccine vector.
Primary isolates of HIV-1 resist neutralization by most antibodies to the CD4 binding site (CD4bs) on gp120 due to occlusion of this site on the trimeric spike. We describe 1F7, a human CD4bs monoclonal antibody that was found to be exceptionally potent against the HIV-1 primary isolate JR-FL. However, 1F7 failed to neutralize a patient-matched primary isolate, JR-CSF even though the two isolates differ by <10% in gp120 at the protein level. In an HIV-1 cross clade panel (n = 157), 1F7 exhibited moderate breadth, but occasionally achieved considerable potency. In binding experiments using monomeric gp120s of select resistant isolates and domain-swap chimeras between JR-FL and JR-CSF, recognition by 1F7 was limited by sequence polymorphisms involving at least the C2 region of Env. Putative N-linked glycosylation site (PNGS) mutations, notably at position 197, allowed 1F7 to neutralize JR-CSF potently without improving binding to the cognate, monomeric gp120. In contrast, flow cytometry experiments using the same PNGS mutants revealed that 1F7 binding is enhanced on cognate trimeric Env. BN-PAGE mobility shift experiments revealed that 1F7 is sensitive to the diagnostic mutation D368R in the CD4 binding loop of gp120. Our data on 1F7 reinforce how exquisitely targeted CD4bs antibodies must be to achieve cross neutralization of two closely related primary isolates. High-resolution analyses of trimeric Env that show the orientation of glycans and polymorphic elements of the CD4bs that affect binding to antibodies like 1F7 are desirable to understand how to promote immunogenicity of more conserved elements of the CD4bs.
Certain human pathogens avoid elimination by our immune system by rapidly mutating the surface antigen protein sites targeted by antibody responses and consequently they tend to be refractory to vaccine development. The behavior described is prominent for a subset of viruses-the highly antigenically diverse viruses-which include HIV, influenza and hepatitis C viruses. However, these viruses do harbor highly conserved exposed sites, usually associated with function, which can be targeted by broadly neutralizing antibodies. Until recently, not many such antibodies were known but advances in the field have enabled increasing numbers to be identified. Molecular characterization of the antibodies and, most importantly, of the sites of vulnerability that they recognize, gives hope for the discovery of new vaccines and drugs.
The membrane proximal external region (MPER) of the HIV-1 glycoprotein gp41 is targeted by the broadly neutralizing antibodies 2F5 and 4E10. To date, no immunization regimen in animals or humans has produced HIV-1 neutralizing MPER-specific antibodies. We immunized llamas with gp41-MPER proteoliposomes and selected a MPER-specific single chain antibody (VHH), 2H10, whose epitope overlaps with that of mAb 2F5. Bi-2H10, a bivalent form of 2H10, which displayed an approximately 20-fold increased affinity compared to the monovalent 2H10, neutralized various sensitive and resistant HIV-1 strains, as well as SHIV strains in TZM-bl cells. X-ray and NMR analyses combined with mutagenesis and modeling revealed that 2H10 recognizes its gp41 epitope in a helical conformation. Notably, tryptophan 100 at the tip of the long CDR3 is not required for gp41 interaction but essential for neutralization. Thus bi-2H10 is an anti-MPER antibody generated by immunization that requires hydrophobic CDR3 determinants in addition to epitope recognition for neutralization similar to the mode of neutralization employed by mAbs 2F5 and 4E10.
Due to the absence of an effective vaccine or cure for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), HIV-1 infections still result in high mortality. Two antibodies, 2F5 and 4E10, previously isolated from HIV-1 infected patients, prevent infections by binding to the MPER of gp41, a part of the virus that is difficult to access and only transiently exposed. Here, we immunized llamas with a gp41-based immunogen and subsequently isolated a small antibody fragment (VHH) that can easily access and recognize the MPER. We showed that a unit of two VHH, named bi-2H10, was indeed capable of preventing HIV-1 from infecting cells. We determined the three dimensional structure of the VHH and mapped its interaction site to an MPER region that overlaps with the 2F5 epitope. The 2H10 VHH displays a membrane binding component important for neutralization that resembles that of 2F5. In conclusion, we have developed an immunogen and a small antibody that may have great potential for development of novel anti-HIV/AIDS vaccines and treatments.
A new method is used to isolate neutralizing antibodies recognizing a new epitope on the cell surface–expressed, but not soluble, HIV-1 spike.
Two to three years after infection, a fraction of HIV-1–infected individuals develop serologic activity that neutralizes most viral isolates. Broadly neutralizing antibodies that recognize the HIV-1 envelope protein have been isolated from these patients by single-cell sorting and by neutralization screens. Here, we report a new method for anti–HIV-1 antibody isolation based on capturing single B cells that recognize the HIV-1 envelope protein expressed on the surface of transfected cells. Although far less efficient than soluble protein baits, the cell-based capture method identified antibodies that bind to a new broadly neutralizing epitope in the vicinity of the V3 loop and the CD4-induced site (CD4i). The new epitope is expressed on the cell surface form of the HIV-1 spike, but not on soluble forms of the same envelope protein. Moreover, the new antibodies complement the neutralization spectrum of potent broadly neutralizing anti-CD4 binding site (CD4bs) antibodies obtained from the same individual. Thus, combinations of potent broadly neutralizing antibodies with complementary activity can account for the breadth and potency of naturally arising anti–HIV-1 serologic activity. Therefore, vaccines aimed at eliciting anti–HIV-1 serologic breadth and potency should not be limited to single epitopes.
Eliciting neutralizing antibodies is thought to be a key activity of a vaccine against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). However, a number of studies have suggested that in addition to neutralization, interaction of IgG with Fc gamma receptors (FcγR) may play an important role in antibody-mediated protection. We have previously obtained evidence that the protective activity of the broadly neutralizing human IgG1 anti-HIV monoclonal antibody (MAb) b12 in macaques is diminished in the absence of FcγR binding capacity. To investigate antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) as a contributor to FcγR-associated protection, we developed a nonfucosylated variant of b12 (NFb12). We showed that, compared to fully fucosylated (referred to as wild-type in the text) b12, NFb12 had higher affinity for human and rhesus macaque FcγRIIIa and was more efficient in inhibiting viral replication and more effective in killing HIV-infected cells in an ADCC assay. Despite these more potent in vitro antiviral activities, NFb12 did not enhance protection in vivo against repeated low-dose vaginal challenge in the simian-human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV)/macaque model compared to wild-type b12. No difference in protection, viral load, or infection susceptibility was observed between animals given NFb12 and those given fully fucosylated b12, indicating that FcγR-mediated activities distinct from FcγRIIIa-mediated ADCC may be important in the observed protection against SHIV challenge.
The HIV envelope (Env) protein gp120 is protected from antibody recognition by a dense glycan shield. However, several of the recently identified PGT broadly neutralizing antibodies appear to interact directly with the HIV glycan coat. Crystal structures of Fabs PGT 127 and 128 with Man9 at 1.65 and 1.29 Å resolution, respectively, and glycan binding data delineate a specific high mannose binding site. Fab PGT 128 complexed with a fully-glycosylated gp120 outer domain at 3.25 Å reveals that the antibody penetrates the glycan shield and recognizes two conserved glycans as well as a short β-strand segment of the gp120 V3 loop, accounting for its high binding affinity and broad specificify. Furthermore, our data suggest that the high neutralization potency of PGT 127 and 128 IgGs may be mediated by cross-linking Env trimers on the viral surface.
Recently, several broadly neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (bnMAbs) directed to the CD4-binding site (CD4bs) of gp120 have been isolated from HIV-1-positive donors. These include VRC01, 3BNC117, and NIH45-46, all of which are capable of neutralizing about 90% of circulating HIV-1 isolates and all of which induce conformational changes in the HIV-1 gp120 monomer similar to those induced by the CD4 receptor. In this study, we characterize PGV04 (also known as VRC-PG04), a MAb with potency and breadth that rivals those of the prototypic VRC01 and 3BNC117. When screened on a large panel of viruses, the neutralizing profile of PGV04 was distinct from those of CD4, b12, and VRC01. Furthermore, the ability of PGV04 to neutralize pseudovirus containing single alanine substitutions exhibited a pattern distinct from those of the other CD4bs MAbs. In particular, substitutions D279A, I420A, and I423A were found to abrogate PGV04 neutralization. In contrast to VRC01, PGV04 did not enhance the binding of 17b or X5 to their epitopes (the CD4-induced [CD4i] site) in the coreceptor region on the gp120 monomer. Furthermore, in contrast to CD4, none of the anti-CD4bs MAbs induced the expression of the 17b epitope on cell surface-expressed cleaved Env trimers. We conclude that potent CD4bs bnMAbs can display differences in the way they recognize and access the CD4bs and that mimicry of CD4, as assessed by inducing conformational changes in monomeric gp120 that lead to enhanced exposure of the CD4i site, is not uniquely correlated with effective neutralization at the site of CD4 binding on HIV-1.
Passive transfer studies using monoclonal or polyclonal antibodies in the macaque model have been valuable for determining conditions for antibody protection against immunodeficiency virus challenge. Most studies have employed hybrid simian/human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV) challenge in conjunction with neutralizing human monoclonal antibodies. Passive protection against SIV, particularly the pathogenic prototype virus SIVmac239, has been little studied because of the paucity of neutralizing antibodies to this virus. Here, we show that the antibody-like molecule CD4-IgG2 potently neutralizes SIVmac239 in vitro. When administered by an osmotic pump to maintain concentrations given the short half-life of CD4-IgG2 in macaques, the molecule provided sterilizing immunity/protection against high-dose mucosal viral challenge to a high proportion of animals (5/7 at a 200 mg dose CD4-IgG2 and 3/6 at a 20 mg dose) at serum concentrations below 1.5 µg/ml. The neutralizing titers of such sera were predicted to be very low and indeed sera at a 1∶4 dilution produced no neutralization in a pseudovirus assay. Macaque anti-human CD4 titers did develop weakly at later time points in some animals but were not associated with the level of protection against viral challenge. The results show that, although SIVmac239 is considered a highly pathogenic virus for which vaccine-induced T cell responses in particular have provided limited benefit against high dose challenge, the antibody-like CD4-IgG2 molecule at surprisingly low serum concentration affords sterilizing immunity/protection to a majority of animals.
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.
Passive transfer of broadly neutralizing HIV antibodies can prevent infection, which suggests that vaccines that elicit such antibodies would be protective. Thus far, however, few broadly neutralizing HIV antibodies that occur naturally have been characterized. To determine whether these antibodies are part of a larger group of related molecules, we cloned 576 new HIV antibodies from four unrelated individuals. All four individuals produced expanded clones of potent broadly neutralizing CD4-binding-site antibodies that mimic binding to CD4. Despite extensive hypermutation, the new antibodies shared a consensus sequence of 68 immunoglobulin H (IgH) chain amino acids and arise independently from two related IgH genes. Comparison of the crystal structure of one of the antibodies to the broadly neutralizing antibody VRC01 revealed conservation of the contacts to the HIV spike.
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.
Passive transfer of neutralizing antibodies is effective in protecting rhesus macaques against simian/human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV) challenge. In addition to neutralization, effector functions of the crystallizable fragment (Fc) of antibodies are involved in antibody-mediated protection against a number of viruses. We recently showed that interaction between the Fc fragment of the broadly neutralizing antibody IgG1 b12 and cellular Fcγ receptors (FcγRs) plays an important role in protection against SHIV infection in rhesus macaques. The specific nature of this Fc-dependent protection is largely unknown. To investigate, we generated a panel of 11 IgG1 b12 antibody variants with selectively diminished or enhanced affinity for the two main activating FcγRs, FcγRIIa and FcγRIIIa. All 11 antibody variants bind gp120 and neutralize virus as effectively as does wild-type b12. Binding studies using monomeric (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay [ELISA] and surface plasmon resonance [SPR]) and cellularly expressed Fcγ receptors show decreased (up to 5-fold) and increased (up to 90-fold) binding to FcγRIIa and FcγRIIIa with this newly generated panel of antibodies. In addition, there was generally a good correlation between b12 variant affinity for Fcγ receptor and variant function in antibody-dependent cell-mediated virus inhibition (ADCVI), phagocytosis, NK cell activation assays, and antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) assays. In future studies, these b12 variants will enable the investigation of the protective role of individual FcγRs in HIV infection.
A protective vaccine against HIV-1 will likely require the elicitation of a broadly neutralizing antibody (bNAb) response. Although the development of an immunogen that elicits such antibodies remains elusive, a proportion of HIV-1 infected individuals evolve broadly neutralizing serum responses over time, demonstrating that the human immune system can recognize and generate NAbs to conserved epitopes on the virus. Understanding the specificities that mediate broad neutralization will provide insight into which epitopes should be targeted for immunogen design and aid in the isolation of broadly neutralizing monoclonal antibodies from these donors. Here, we have used a number of new and established technologies to map the bNAb specificities in the sera of 19 donors who exhibit among the most potent cross-clade serum neutralizing activities observed to date. The results suggest that broad and potent serum neutralization arises in most donors through a limited number of specificities (1–2 per donor). The major targets recognized are an epitope defined by the bNAbs PG9 and PG16 that is associated with conserved regions of the V1, V2 and V3 loops, an epitope overlapping the CD4 binding site and possibly the coreceptor binding site, an epitope sensitive to a loss of the glycan at N332 and distinct from that recognized by the bNAb 2G12 and an epitope sensitive to an I165A substitution. In approximately half of the donors, key N-linked glycans were critical for expression of the epitopes recognized by the bNAb specificities in the sera.
The development of an immunogen that elicits antibodies that neutralize a wide range of global circulating HIV-1 isolates is a major goal of HIV-1 vaccine research. Unfortunately, even the most promising antibody-based vaccine candidates have only induced NAb responses that neutralize a limited number of these strains. However, recent studies have demonstrated that broad and potent NAb responses develop in the sera of a subset of HIV-1 infected individuals, and studying the nature of these responses may provide clues for the design of new vaccine immunogens. Here, we show that the broad neutralization in the sera of most of the individual donors that we studied can be associated with single or a small number of specificities. Across the donor panel, broad neutralization appears associated with 4–5 principal specificities.
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.