Broadly neutralizing monoclonal antibodies effective against the majority of circulating isolates of HIV-1 have been isolated from a small number of infected individuals. Definition of the conformational epitopes on the HIV spike to which these antibodies bind is of great value in defining targets for vaccine and drug design. Drawing on techniques from compressed sensing and information theory, we developed a computational methodology to predict key residues constituting the conformational epitopes on the viral spike from cross-clade neutralization activity data. Our approach does not require the availability of structural information for either the antibody or antigen. Predictions of the conformational epitopes of ten broadly neutralizing HIV-1 antibodies are shown to be in good agreement with new and existing experimental data. Our findings suggest that our approach offers a means to accelerate epitope identification for diverse pathogenic antigens.
During lymphocyte antigen receptor gene assembly, DNA cleavage by the Rag proteins generates pairs of coding and signal ends that are normally joined into coding joints and signal joints, respectively, by the classical non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) pathway of DNA double strand break (DSB) repair. Coding and signal ends can also be aberrantly joined to each other, generating hybrid joints, through NHEJ or through NHEJ-independent pathways, such as Rag-mediated transposition. Hybrid joints do not participate in the formation of functional antigen receptor genes and can alter the configuration of antigen receptor loci in ways that limit subsequent productive rearrangements. The formation of these non-functional hybrid joints occurs rarely in wild type lymphocytes, demonstrating that mechanisms exist to limit both the NHEJ-dependent and the NHEJ-independent joining of a signal end to a coding end. In contrast to wild type cells, hybrid joint formation occurs at high levels in Atm-deficient lymphocytes, suggesting that Atm functions to limit the formation of these aberrant joints. Here we show that hybrid joint formation in Atm-deficient cells requires the NHEJ proteins Artemis, DNA-PKcs and Ku70, demonstrating that Atm functions primarily by modulating the NHEJ-dependent, and not the NHEJ-independent, joining of coding ends to signal ends.
Gene rearrangement; Gene Regulation; Immunodeficiency Diseases; B cells; T cells
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.
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.
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.
The structure of VRC01 in complex with the HIV-1 gp120 core reveals that this broadly neutralizing CD4 binding site (CD4bs) antibody partially mimics the interaction of the primary virus receptor, CD4, with gp120. Here, we extended the investigation of the VRC01-gp120 core interaction to the biologically relevant viral spike to better understand the mechanism of VRC01-mediated neutralization and to define viral elements associated with neutralization resistance. In contrast to the interaction of CD4 or the CD4bs monoclonal antibody (MAb) b12 with the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env), occlusion of the VRC01 epitope by quaternary constraints was not a major factor limiting neutralization. Mutagenesis studies indicated that VRC01 contacts within the gp120 loop D, the CD4 binding loop, and the V5 region were necessary for optimal VRC01 neutralization, as suggested by the crystal structure. In contrast to interactions with the soluble gp120 monomer, VRC01 interaction with the native viral spike did not occur in a CD4-like manner; VRC01 did not induce gp120 shedding from the Env spike or enhance gp41 membrane proximal external region (MPER)-directed antibody binding to the Env spike. Finally, VRC01 did not display significant reactivity with human antigens, boding well for potential in vivo applications. The data indicate that VRC01 interacts with gp120 in the context of the functional spike in a manner distinct from that of CD4. It achieves potent neutralization by precisely targeting the CD4bs without requiring alterations of Env spike configuration and by avoiding steric constraints imposed by the quaternary structure of the functional Env spike.
DNA double stranded breaks (DSBs) are generated by the RAG endonuclease in all developing lymphocytes as they assemble antigen receptor genes1. DNA cleavage by RAG occurs only at the G1-phase of the cell cycle and generates two hairpin-sealed DNA (coding) ends that require nucleolytic opening prior to their repair by classical non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ)1–3. Although there are several cellular nucleases that could perform this function, only the Artemis nuclease is able to do so efficiently2, 3. Here we show, in vivo, that the histone protein H2AX prevents nucleases other than Artemis from processing hairpin-sealed coding ends; in the absence of H2AX, CtIP can efficiently promote the hairpin opening and resection of DNA ends generated by RAG cleavage. This CtIP-mediated resection is inhibited by γ-H2AX and by MDC-1, which binds to γ-H2AX in chromatin flanking DNA DSBs. Moreover, the ATM kinase activates antagonistic pathways that modulate this resection. CtIP DNA end resection activity is normally limited to cells at post-replicative stages of the cell cycle where it is essential for homology-mediated repair4, 5. In G1-phase lymphocytes, DNA ends that are processed by CtIP are not efficiently joined by classical NHEJ and the joints that do form frequently use micro-homologies and exhibit significant chromosomal deletions. Thus, H2AX preserves the structural integrity of broken DNA ends in G1-phase lymphocytes thereby preventing these DNA ends from accessing repair pathways that promote genomic instability.
Many anti-viral vaccines elicit neutralizing antibodies as a correlate of protection. For HIV, given the huge variability of the virus, it is widely believed that the induction of a broadly neutralizing antibody (bNAb) response will be crucial in a successful vaccine against the virus. Unfortunately, despite many efforts, the development of an immunogen that elicits bNAbs remains elusive. However, recent structural studies of HIV-1 Env proteins, generation of novel bNAbs, maturation of technologies for the isolation of further antibodies, insights into the requirements for antibody-mediated protection, and novel vaccination approaches are providing grounds for renewed optimism.
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 Mre11–Rad50–Nbs1 (MRN) complex functions in the repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) by homologous recombination (HR) at postreplicative stages of the cell cycle. During HR, the MRN complex functions directly in the repair of DNA DSBs and in the initiation of DSB responses through activation of the ataxia telangiectasia-mutated (ATM) serine-threonine kinase. Whether MRN functions in DNA damage responses before DNA replication in G0/G1 phase cells has been less clear. In developing G1-phase lymphocytes, DNA DSBs are generated by the Rag endonuclease and repaired during the assembly of antigen receptor genes by the process of V(D)J recombination. Mice and humans deficient in MRN function exhibit lymphoid phenotypes that are suggestive of defects in V(D)J recombination. We show that during V(D)J recombination, MRN deficiency leads to the aberrant joining of Rag DSBs and to the accumulation of unrepaired coding ends, thus establishing a functional role for MRN in the repair of Rag-mediated DNA DSBs. Moreover, these defects in V(D)J recombination are remarkably similar to those observed in ATM-deficient lymphocytes, suggesting that ATM and MRN function in the same DNA DSB response pathways during lymphocyte antigen receptor gene assembly.
DNA double strand breaks are generated by genotoxic agents and by cellular endonucleases as intermediates of several important physiologic processes. The cellular response to genotoxic DNA breaks includes the activation of transcriptional programs known primarily to regulate cell cycle checkpoints and cell survival1–5. DNA double strand breaks are generated in all developing lymphocytes during the assembly of antigen receptor genes, a process that is essential for normal lymphocyte development. Here we demonstrate that these physiologic DNA breaks activate a broad transcriptional program. This program transcends the canonical DNA double strand break response and includes many genes that regulate diverse cellular processes important for lymphocyte development. Moreover, the expression of several of these genes is regulated similarly in response to genotoxic DNA damage. Thus, physiologic DNA double strand breaks provide cues that can regulate cell-type-specific processes not directly involved in maintaining the integrity of the genome, and genotoxic DNA breaks could disrupt normal cellular functions by corrupting these processes.
Ataxia-telangiectasia mutated (ATM)–deficient lymphocytes exhibit defects in coding joint formation during V(D)J recombination in vitro. Similar defects in vivo should affect both T and B cell development, yet the lymphoid phenotypes of ATM deficiency are more pronounced in the T cell compartment. In this regard, ATM-deficient mice exhibit a preferential T lymphopenia and have an increased incidence of nontransformed and transformed T cells with T cell receptor α/δ locus translocations. We demonstrate that there is an increase in the accumulation of unrepaired coding ends during different steps of antigen receptor gene assembly at both the immunoglobulin and T cell receptor loci in developing ATM-deficient B and T lymphocytes. Furthermore, we show that the frequency of ATM-deficient αβ T cells with translocations involving the T cell receptor α/δ locus is directly related to the number of T cell receptor α rearrangements that these cells can make during development. Collectively, these findings demonstrate that ATM deficiency leads to broad defects in coding joint formation in developing B and T lymphocytes in vivo, and they provide a potential molecular explanation as to why the developmental impact of these defects could be more pronounced in the T cell compartment.
The PA200 proteasome activator is a broadly expressed nuclear protein. Although how PA200 normally functions is not fully understood, it has been suggested to be involved in the repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). The PA200 gene (Psme4) is composed of 45 coding exons spanning 108 kb on mouse chromosome 11. We generated a PA200 null allele (PA200Δ) through Cre-loxP-mediated interchromosomal recombination after targeting loxP sites at either end of the locus. PA200Δ/Δ mice are viable and have no obvious developmental abnormalities. Both lymphocyte development and immunoglobulin class switching, which rely on the generation and repair of DNA DSBs, are unperturbed in PA200Δ/Δ mice. Additionally, PA200Δ/Δ embryonic stem cells do not exhibit increased sensitivity to either ionizing radiation or bleomycin. Thus, PA200 is not essential for the repair of DNA DSBs generated in these settings. Notably, loss of PA200 led to a marked reduction in male, but not female, fertility. This was due to defects in spermatogenesis observed in meiotic spermatocytes and during the maturation of postmeiotic haploid spermatids. Thus, PA200 serves an important nonredundant function during spermatogenesis, suggesting that the efficient generation of male gametes has distinct protein metabolic requirements.
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.
Despite numerous attempts over many years to develop an HIV vaccine based on classical strategies, none has convincingly succeeded to date. A number of approaches are being pursued in the field, including building upon possible efficacy indicated by the recent RV144 clinical trial, which combined two HIV vaccines. Here, we argue for an approach based, in part, on understanding the HIV envelope spike and its interaction with broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) at the molecular level and using this understanding to design immunogens as possible vaccines. BnAbs can protect against virus challenge in animal models and many such antibodies have been isolated recently. We further propose that studies focused on how best to provide T cell help to B cells that produce bnAbs are crucial for optimal immunization strategies. The synthesis of rational immunogen design and immunization strategies, together with iterative improvements, offers great promise for advancing toward an HIV vaccine.
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.
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.