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author:("Korber, cette")
1.  Comparison of Viral Env Proteins from Acute and Chronic Infections with Subtype C Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Identifies Differences in Glycosylation and CCR5 Utilization and Suggests a New Strategy for Immunogen Design 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(13):7218-7233.
Understanding human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) transmission is central to developing effective prevention strategies, including a vaccine. We compared phenotypic and genetic variation in HIV-1 env genes from subjects in acute/early infection and subjects with chronic infections in the context of subtype C heterosexual transmission. We found that the transmitted viruses all used CCR5 and required high levels of CD4 to infect target cells, suggesting selection for replication in T cells and not macrophages after transmission. In addition, the transmitted viruses were more likely to use a maraviroc-sensitive conformation of CCR5, perhaps identifying a feature of the target T cell. We confirmed an earlier observation that the transmitted viruses were, on average, modestly underglycosylated relative to the viruses from chronically infected subjects. This difference was most pronounced in comparing the viruses in acutely infected men to those in chronically infected women. These features of the transmitted virus point to selective pressures during the transmission event. We did not observe a consistent difference either in heterologous neutralization sensitivity or in sensitivity to soluble CD4 between the two groups, suggesting similar conformations between viruses from acute and chronic infection. However, the presence or absence of glycosylation sites had differential effects on neutralization sensitivity for different antibodies. We suggest that the occasional absence of glycosylation sites encoded in the conserved regions of env, further reduced in transmitted viruses, could expose specific surface structures on the protein as antibody targets.
PMCID: PMC3700278  PMID: 23616655
2.  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
3.  Co-evolution of a broadly neutralizing HIV-1 antibody and founder virus 
Nature  2013;496(7446):469-476.
Current HIV-1 vaccines elicit strain-specific neutralizing antibodies. However, cross-reactive neutralizing antibodies arise in ~20% of HIV-1-infected individuals, and details of their generation could provide a roadmap for effective vaccination. Here we report the isolation, evolution and structure of a broadly neutralizing antibody from an African donor followed from time of infection. The mature antibody, CH103, neutralized ~55% of HIV-1 isolates, and its co-crystal structure with gp120 revealed a novel loop-based mechanism of CD4-binding site recognition. Virus and antibody gene sequencing revealed concomitant virus evolution and antibody maturation. Notably, the CH103-lineage unmutated common ancestor avidly bound the transmitted/founder HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein, and evolution of antibody neutralization breadth was preceded by extensive viral diversification in and near the CH103 epitope. These data elucidate the viral and antibody evolution leading to induction of a lineage of HIV-1 broadly neutralizing antibodies and provide insights into strategies to elicit similar antibodies via vaccination.
PMCID: PMC3637846  PMID: 23552890
4.  Antigenicity and Immunogenicity of Transmitted/Founder, Consensus, and Chronic Envelope Glycoproteins of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(8):4185-4201.
Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) vaccine development requires selection of appropriate envelope (Env) immunogens. Twenty HIV-1 Env glycoproteins were examined for their ability to bind human anti-HIV-1 monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) and then used as immunogens in guinea pigs to identify promising immunogens. These included five Envs derived from chronically infected individuals, each representing one of five common clades and eight consensus Envs based on these five clades, as well as the consensus of the entire HIV-1 M group, and seven transmitted/founder (T/F) Envs from clades B and C. Sera from immunized guinea pigs were tested for neutralizing activity using 36 HIV-1 Env-pseudotyped viruses. All Envs bound to CD4 binding site, membrane-proximal, and V1/V2 MAbs with similar apparent affinities, although the T/F Envs bound with higher affinity to the MAb 17b, a CCR5 coreceptor binding site antibody. However, the various Envs differed in their ability to induce neutralizing antibodies. Consensus Envs elicited the most potent responses, but neutralized only a subset of viruses, including mostly easy-to-neutralize tier 1 and some more-difficult-to-neutralize tier 2 viruses. T/F Envs elicited fewer potent neutralizing antibodies but exhibited greater breadth than chronic or consensus Envs. Finally, chronic Envs elicited the lowest level and most limited breadth of neutralizing antibodies overall. Thus, each group of Env immunogens elicited a different antibody response profile. The complementary benefits of consensus and T/F Env immunogens raise the possibility that vaccines utilizing a combination of consensus and T/F Envs may be able to induce neutralizing responses with greater breadth and potency than single Env immunogens.
PMCID: PMC3624376  PMID: 23365441
5.  Plasma IgG to Linear Epitopes in the V2 and V3 Regions of HIV-1 gp120 Correlate with a Reduced Risk of Infection in the RV144 Vaccine Efficacy Trial 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e75665.
Neutralizing and non-neutralizing antibodies to linear epitopes on HIV-1 envelope glycoproteins have potential to mediate antiviral effector functions that could be beneficial to vaccine-induced protection. Here, plasma IgG responses were assessed in three HIV-1 gp120 vaccine efficacy trials (RV144, Vax003, Vax004) and in HIV-1-infected individuals by using arrays of overlapping peptides spanning the entire consensus gp160 of all major genetic subtypes and circulating recombinant forms (CRFs) of the virus. In RV144, where 31.2% efficacy against HIV-1 infection was seen, dominant responses targeted the C1, V2, V3 and C5 regions of gp120. An analysis of RV144 case-control samples showed that IgG to V2 CRF01_AE significantly inversely correlated with infection risk (OR= 0.54, p=0.0042), as did the response to other V2 subtypes (OR=0.60-0.63, p=0.016-0.025). The response to V3 CRF01_AE also inversely correlated with infection risk but only in vaccine recipients who had lower levels of other antibodies, especially Env-specific plasma IgA (OR=0.49, p=0.007) and neutralizing antibodies (OR=0.5, p=0.008). Responses to C1 and C5 showed no significant correlation with infection risk. In Vax003 and Vax004, where no significant protection was seen, serum IgG responses targeted the same epitopes as in RV144 with the exception of an additional C1 reactivity in Vax003 and infrequent V2 reactivity in Vax004. In HIV-1 infected subjects, dominant responses targeted the V3 and C5 regions of gp120, as well as the immunodominant domain, heptad repeat 1 (HR-1) and membrane proximal external region (MPER) of gp41. These results highlight the presence of several dominant linear B cell epitopes on the HIV-1 envelope glycoproteins. They also generate the hypothesis that IgG to linear epitopes in the V2 and V3 regions of gp120 are part of a complex interplay of immune responses that contributed to protection in RV144.
PMCID: PMC3784573  PMID: 24086607
6.  A multiple-alignment based primer design algorithm for genetically highly variable DNA targets 
BMC Bioinformatics  2013;14:255.
Primer design for highly variable DNA sequences is difficult, and experimental success requires attention to many interacting constraints. The advent of next-generation sequencing methods allows the investigation of rare variants otherwise hidden deep in large populations, but requires attention to population diversity and primer localization in relatively conserved regions, in addition to recognized constraints typically considered in primer design.
Design constraints include degenerate sites to maximize population coverage, matching of melting temperatures, optimizing de novo sequence length, finding optimal bio-barcodes to allow efficient downstream analyses, and minimizing risk of dimerization. To facilitate primer design addressing these and other constraints, we created a novel computer program (PrimerDesign) that automates this complex procedure. We show its powers and limitations and give examples of successful designs for the analysis of HIV-1 populations.
PrimerDesign is useful for researchers who want to design DNA primers and probes for analyzing highly variable DNA populations. It can be used to design primers for PCR, RT-PCR, Sanger sequencing, next-generation sequencing, and other experimental protocols targeting highly variable DNA samples.
PMCID: PMC3765731  PMID: 23965160
Primer design; DNA sequencing; Amplicon sequencing; Next-generation sequencing; PCR; Primer dimer; Bio-barcodes; Multiplex
7.  Hepatitis C Genotype 1 Mosaic Vaccines Are Immunogenic in Mice and Induce Stronger T-Cell Responses than Natural Strains 
Despite improved hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatments, vaccines remain an effective and economic option for curtailing the epidemic. Mosaic protein HCV genotype 1 vaccine candidates designed to address HCV diversity were immunogenic in mice. They elicited stronger T-cell responses to NS3-NS4a and E1-E2 proteins than did natural strains, as assessed with vaccine-matched peptides.
PMCID: PMC3571268  PMID: 23221002
8.  Breadth of cellular and humoral immune responses elicited in rhesus monkeys by multi-valent mosaic and consensus immunogens 
Virology  2012;428(2):121-127.
To create an HIV-1 vaccine that generates sufficient breadth of immune recognition to protect against the genetically diverse forms of the circulating virus, we have been exploring vaccines based on consensus and mosaic protein designs. Increasing the valency of a mosaic immunogen cocktail increases epitope coverage but with diminishing returns, as increasingly rare epitopes are incorporated into the mosaic proteins. In this study we compared the immunogenicity of 2-valent and 3-valent HIV-1 envelope mosaic immunogens in rhesus monkeys. Immunizations with the 3-valent mosaic immunogens resulted in a modest increase in the breadth of vaccine-elicited T lymphocyte responses compared to the 2-valent mosaic immunogens. However, the 3-valent mosaic immunogens elicited significantly higher neutralizing responses to Tier 1 viruses than the 2-valent mosaic immunogens. These findings underscore the potential utility of polyvalent mosaic immunogens for eliciting both cellular and humoral immune responses to HIV-1.
PMCID: PMC3582221  PMID: 22521913
HIV-1 vaccine; Mosaic immunogen; T cell
9.  Distinct Evolutionary Pressures Underlie Diversity in Simian Immunodeficiency Virus and Human Immunodeficiency Virus Lineages 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(24):13217-13231.
Simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection of rhesus macaques causes immune depletion and disease closely resembling human AIDS and is well recognized as the most relevant animal model for the human disease. Experimental investigations of viral pathogenesis and vaccine protection primarily involve a limited set of related viruses originating in sooty mangabeys (SIVsmm). The diversity of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) has evolved in humans in about a century; in contrast, SIV isolates used in the macaque model evolved in sooty mangabeys over millennia. To investigate the possible consequences of such different evolutionary histories for selection pressures and observed diversity in SIVsmm and HIV-1, we isolated, sequenced, and analyzed 20 independent isolates of SIVsmm, including representatives of 7 distinct clades of viruses isolated from natural infection. We found SIVsmm diversity to be lower overall than HIV-1 M group diversity. Reduced positive selection (i.e., less diversifying evolution) was evident in extended regions of SIVsmm proteins, most notably in Gag p27 and Env gp120. In addition, the relative diversities of proteins in the two lineages were distinct: SIVsmm Env and Gag were much less diverse than their HIV-1 counterparts. This may be explained by lower SIV-directed immune activity in mangabeys relative to HIV-1-directed immunity in humans. These findings add an additional layer of complexity to the interpretation and, potentially, to the predictive utility of the SIV/macaque model, and they highlight the unique features of human and simian lentiviral evolution that inform studies of pathogenesis and strategies for AIDS vaccine design.
PMCID: PMC3503124  PMID: 23055550
10.  A Mechanistic Understanding of Allosteric Immune Escape Pathways in the HIV-1 Envelope Glycoprotein 
PLoS Computational Biology  2013;9(5):e1003046.
The HIV-1 envelope (Env) spike, which consists of a compact, heterodimeric trimer of the glycoproteins gp120 and gp41, is the target of neutralizing antibodies. However, the high mutation rate of HIV-1 and plasticity of Env facilitates viral evasion from neutralizing antibodies through various mechanisms. Mutations that are distant from the antibody binding site can lead to escape, probably by changing the conformation or dynamics of Env; however, these changes are difficult to identify and define mechanistically. Here we describe a network analysis-based approach to identify potential allosteric immune evasion mechanisms using three known HIV-1 Env gp120 protein structures from two different clades, B and C. First, correlation and principal component analyses of molecular dynamics (MD) simulations identified a high degree of long-distance coupled motions that exist between functionally distant regions within the intrinsic dynamics of the gp120 core, supporting the presence of long-distance communication in the protein. Then, by integrating MD simulations with network theory, we identified the optimal and suboptimal communication pathways and modules within the gp120 core. The results unveil both strain-dependent and -independent characteristics of the communication pathways in gp120. We show that within the context of three structurally homologous gp120 cores, the optimal pathway for communication is sequence sensitive, i.e. a suboptimal pathway in one strain becomes the optimal pathway in another strain. Yet the identification of conserved elements within these communication pathways, termed inter-modular hotspots, could present a new opportunity for immunogen design, as this could be an additional mechanism that HIV-1 uses to shield vulnerable antibody targets in Env that induce neutralizing antibody breadth.
Author Summary
The Env glycoproteins, gp120 and gp41, are the viral targets of HIV neutralizing antibodies. Accordingly, vaccine studies have focused on eliciting broadly neutralizing antibodies against epitopes in these proteins. Sequence diversity and the conformational flexibility of Env have made vaccine design efforts difficult. It is well documented that mutations distant from defined epitopes can lead to escape from neutralizing antibodies. In such cases, allostery within the Env protein could play a dominant role. In this study, we characterized the dynamical network in gp120 in terms of how spatially distant regions communicate with each other. We introduced an approach based on coupling computer simulations to compare gp120 core structures of three different virus strains from two clades, clade B and C. Our study finds that the long-distance collective motions in the protein are functionally relevant and are conserved across diverse strains of gp120, the communication pathways associated with these motions are sensitive to its sequence. Importantly, we find that gp120 exhibits communication modules (communities) with key residues (hotspots) serving as conduits for communication between different communities, a possible strategy to exploit in future vaccine design efforts.
PMCID: PMC3656115  PMID: 23696718
11.  Mycobacterium tuberculosis – Heterogeneity Revealed Through Whole Genome Sequencing 
The emergence of whole genome sequencing (WGS) technologies as primary research tools has allowed for the detection of genetic diversity in Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) with unprecedented resolution. WGS has been used to address a broad range of topics, including the dynamics of evolution, transmission and treatment. Here, we have analyzed 55 publically available genomes to reconstruct the phylogeny of Mtb, and we have addressed complications that arise during the analysis of publically available WGS data. Additionally, we have reviewed the application of WGS to the study of Mtb and discuss those areas still to be addressed, moving from global (phylogeography), to local (transmission chains and circulating strain diversity), to the single patient (clonal heterogeneity) and to the bacterium itself (evolutionary studies). Finally, we discuss the current WGS approaches, their strengths and limitations.
PMCID: PMC3323677  PMID: 22218163
Whole genome sequencing; evolution; heterogeneity; Mycobacterium tuberculosis
12.  Analysis of V2 Antibody Responses Induced in Vaccinees in the ALVAC/AIDSVAX HIV-1 Vaccine Efficacy Trial 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53629.
The RV144 clinical trial of a prime/boost immunizing regimen using recombinant canary pox (ALVAC-HIV) and two gp120 proteins (AIDSVAX B and E) was previously shown to have a 31.2% efficacy rate. Plasma specimens from vaccine and placebo recipients were used in an extensive set of assays to identify correlates of HIV-1 infection risk. Of six primary variables that were studied, only one displayed a significant inverse correlation with risk of infection: the antibody (Ab) response to a fusion protein containing the V1 and V2 regions of gp120 (gp70-V1V2). This finding prompted a thorough examination of the results generated with the complete panel of 13 assays measuring various V2 Abs in the stored plasma used in the initial pilot studies and those used in the subsequent case-control study. The studies revealed that the ALVAC-HIV/AIDSVAX vaccine induced V2-specific Abs that cross-react with multiple HIV-1 subgroups and recognize both conformational and linear epitopes. The conformational epitope was present on gp70-V1V2, while the predominant linear V2 epitope mapped to residues 165–178, immediately N-terminal to the putative α4β7 binding motif in the mid-loop region of V2. Odds ratios (ORs) were calculated to compare the risk of infection with data from 12 V2 assays, and in 11 of these, the ORs were ≤1, reaching statistical significance for two of the variables: Ab responses to gp70-V1V2 and to overlapping V2 linear peptides. It remains to be determined whether anti-V2 Ab responses were directly responsible for the reduced infection rate in RV144 and whether anti-V2 Abs will prove to be important with other candidate HIV vaccines that show efficacy, however, the results support continued dissection of Ab responses to the V2 region which may illuminate mechanisms of protection from HIV-1 infection and may facilitate the development of an effective HIV-1 vaccine.
PMCID: PMC3547933  PMID: 23349725
13.  Vertical T cell immunodominance and epitope entropy determine HIV-1 escape 
HIV-1 accumulates mutations in and around reactive epitopes to escape recognition and killing by CD8+ T cells. Measurements of HIV-1 time to escape should therefore provide information on which parameters are most important for T cell–mediated in vivo control of HIV-1. Primary HIV-1–specific T cell responses were fully mapped in 17 individuals, and the time to virus escape, which ranged from days to years, was measured for each epitope. While higher magnitude of an individual T cell response was associated with more rapid escape, the most significant T cell measure was its relative immunodominance measured in acute infection. This identified subject-level or “vertical” immunodominance as the primary determinant of in vivo CD8+ T cell pressure in HIV-1 infection. Conversely, escape was slowed significantly by lower population variability, or entropy, of the epitope targeted. Immunodominance and epitope entropy combined to explain half of all the variability in time to escape. These data explain how CD8+ T cells can exert significant and sustained HIV-1 pressure even when escape is very slow and that within an individual, the impacts of other T cell factors on HIV-1 escape should be considered in the context of immunodominance.
PMCID: PMC3533301  PMID: 23221345
14.  Full-Length HIV-1 Immunogens Induce Greater Magnitude and Comparable Breadth of T Lymphocyte Responses to Conserved HIV-1 Regions Compared with Conserved-Region-Only HIV-1 Immunogens in Rhesus Monkeys 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(21):11434-11440.
A global HIV-1 vaccine will likely need to induce immune responses against conserved HIV-1 regions to contend with the profound genetic diversity of HIV-1. Here we evaluated the capacity of immunogens consisting of only highly conserved HIV-1 sequences that are aimed at focusing cellular immune responses on these potentially critical regions. We assessed in rhesus monkeys the breadth and magnitude of T lymphocyte responses elicited by adenovirus vectors expressing either full-length HIV-1 Gag/Pol/Env immunogens or concatenated immunogens consisting of only highly conserved HIV-1 sequences. Surprisingly, we found that the full-length immunogens induced comparable breadth (P = 1.0) and greater magnitude (P = 0.01) of CD8+ T lymphocyte responses against conserved HIV-1 regions compared with the conserved-region-only immunogens. Moreover, the full-length immunogens induced a 5-fold increased total breadth of HIV-1-specific T lymphocyte responses compared with the conserved-region-only immunogens (P = 0.007). These results suggest that full-length HIV-1 immunogens elicit a substantially increased magnitude and breadth of cellular immune responses compared with conserved-region-only HIV-1 immunogens, including greater magnitude and comparable breadth of responses against conserved sequences.
PMCID: PMC3486282  PMID: 22896617
15.  Designing and Testing Broadly-Protective Filoviral Vaccines Optimized for Cytotoxic T-Lymphocyte Epitope Coverage 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e44769.
We report the rational design and in vivo testing of mosaic proteins for a polyvalent pan-filoviral vaccine using a computational strategy designed for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus type 1 (HIV-1) but also appropriate for Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and potentially other diverse viruses. Mosaics are sets of artificial recombinant proteins that are based on natural proteins. The recombinants are computationally selected using a genetic algorithm to optimize the coverage of potential cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) epitopes. Because evolutionary history differs markedly between HIV-1 and filoviruses, we devised an adapted computational technique that is effective for sparsely sampled taxa; our first significant result is that the mosaic technique is effective in creating high-quality mosaic filovirus proteins. The resulting coverage of potential epitopes across filovirus species is superior to coverage by any natural variants, including current vaccine strains with demonstrated cross-reactivity. The mosaic cocktails are also robust: mosaics substantially outperformed natural strains when computationally tested against poorly sampled species and more variable genes. Furthermore, in a computational comparison of cross-reactive potential a design constructed prior to the Bundibugyo outbreak performed nearly as well against all species as an updated design that included Bundibugyo. These points suggest that the mosaic designs would be more resilient than natural-variant vaccines against future Ebola outbreaks dominated by novel viral variants. We demonstrate in vivo immunogenicity and protection against a heterologous challenge in a mouse model. This design work delineates the likely requirements and limitations on broadly-protective filoviral CTL vaccines.
PMCID: PMC3463593  PMID: 23056184
16.  Quantifying the Diversification of Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) during Primary Infection: Estimates of the In Vivo Mutation Rate 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(8):e1002881.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is present in the host with multiple variants generated by its error prone RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. Little is known about the initial viral diversification and the viral life cycle processes that influence diversity. We studied the diversification of HCV during acute infection in 17 plasma donors, with frequent sampling early in infection. To analyze these data, we developed a new stochastic model of the HCV life cycle. We found that the accumulation of mutations is surprisingly slow: at 30 days, the viral population on average is still 46% identical to its transmitted viral genome. Fitting the model to the sequence data, we estimate the median in vivo viral mutation rate is 2.5×10−5 mutations per nucleotide per genome replication (range 1.6–6.2×10−5), about 5-fold lower than previous estimates. To confirm these results we analyzed the frequency of stop codons (N = 10) among all possible non-sense mutation targets (M = 898,335), and found a mutation rate of 2.8–3.2×10−5, consistent with the estimate from the dynamical model. The slow accumulation of mutations is consistent with slow turnover of infected cells and replication complexes within infected cells. This slow turnover is also inferred from the viral load kinetics. Our estimated mutation rate, which is similar to that of other RNA viruses (e.g., HIV and influenza), is also compatible with the accumulation of substitutions seen in HCV at the population level. Our model identifies the relevant processes (long-lived cells and slow turnover of replication complexes) and parameters involved in determining the rate of HCV diversification.
Author Summary
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a RNA virus that infects over 170 million people across the world. It leads to a chronic infection in the majority of people who are infected (>70%). Most people only discover that they are infected long after initial infection. Thus, it is difficult to study the very early events in infection. Here we study 17 individuals during the earliest possible stages of infection, from before the virus is detectable in the plasma to around 35 days post-infection. We focus on understanding the viral kinetics and the diversification of HCV during this acute phase of infection. During chronic infection HCV is present in the host as a swarm of multiple variants generated by its error prone copying. We studied the early diversification of HCV during acute infection using a new mathematical model of HCV replication. We found that after a phase of fast increase in viral load, accompanied by viral diversification, there is a stabilization of viral load and diversity levels. Using our model, we were able to estimate for the first time the HCV mutation rate during acute infection. We estimated the median in vivo viral mutation rate is 2.5×10−5 mutations per nucleotide per genome replication (range 1.6–6.2×10−5), about 5-fold lower than previous estimates. We also used a different approach, based on results of classical genetics, to calculate HCV's mutation rate and obtained consistent results (2.8–3.2×10−5).
PMCID: PMC3426522  PMID: 22927817
17.  Elucidation of Hepatitis C Virus Transmission and Early Diversification by Single Genome Sequencing 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(8):e1002880.
A precise molecular identification of transmitted hepatitis C virus (HCV) genomes could illuminate key aspects of transmission biology, immunopathogenesis and natural history. We used single genome sequencing of 2,922 half or quarter genomes from plasma viral RNA to identify transmitted/founder (T/F) viruses in 17 subjects with acute community-acquired HCV infection. Sequences from 13 of 17 acute subjects, but none of 14 chronic controls, exhibited one or more discrete low diversity viral lineages. Sequences within each lineage generally revealed a star-like phylogeny of mutations that coalesced to unambiguous T/F viral genomes. Numbers of transmitted viruses leading to productive clinical infection were estimated to range from 1 to 37 or more (median = 4). Four acutely infected subjects showed a distinctly different pattern of virus diversity that deviated from a star-like phylogeny. In these cases, empirical analysis and mathematical modeling suggested high multiplicity virus transmission from individuals who themselves were acutely infected or had experienced a virus population bottleneck due to antiviral drug therapy. These results provide new quantitative and qualitative insights into HCV transmission, revealing for the first time virus-host interactions that successful vaccines or treatment interventions will need to overcome. Our findings further suggest a novel experimental strategy for identifying full-length T/F genomes for proteome-wide analyses of HCV biology and adaptation to antiviral drug or immune pressures.
Author Summary
Hepatitis C virus infects as many as 170 million people worldwide. Globally, there are seven major genotypes of HCV that differ by approximately 30% in nucleotide sequence. Importantly, the natural history of HCV infection is variable, ranging from spontaneous resolution to persistent viremia and chronic disease. Factors responsible for this variability in clinical outcome are unknown but likely involve a combination of viral and host determinants. To this end, a precise molecular identification of transmitted HCV genomes could illuminate key aspects of transmission biology, immunopathogenesis and natural history. We used single genome sequencing of plasma viral RNA to identify transmitted viral genomes and their progeny in 17 subjects with acute infection. Numbers of transmitted viruses leading to productive clinical infection ranged from 1 to 37 or more (median = 4). Surprisingly, we found evidence of high multiplicity acute-to-acute HCV transmission in 3 of 17 subjects, which suggests that clinical transmission of HCV, like that of HIV-1, may be enhanced in early infection when virus titers are highest and neutralizing antibodies are absent. These results provide novel insight into HCV transmission and early virus diversification key to our understanding of virus natural history and response to drug selection and immune pressure.
PMCID: PMC3426529  PMID: 22927816
18.  Early Low-Titer Neutralizing Antibodies Impede HIV-1 Replication and Select for Virus Escape 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(5):e1002721.
Single genome sequencing of early HIV-1 genomes provides a sensitive, dynamic assessment of virus evolution and insight into the earliest anti-viral immune responses in vivo. By using this approach, together with deep sequencing, site-directed mutagenesis, antibody adsorptions and virus-entry assays, we found evidence in three subjects of neutralizing antibody (Nab) responses as early as 2 weeks post-seroconversion, with Nab titers as low as 1∶20 to 1∶50 (IC50) selecting for virus escape. In each of the subjects, Nabs targeted different regions of the HIV-1 envelope (Env) in a strain-specific, conformationally sensitive manner. In subject CH40, virus escape was first mediated by mutations in the V1 region of the Env, followed by V3. HIV-1 specific monoclonal antibodies from this subject mapped to an immunodominant region at the base of V3 and exhibited neutralizing patterns indistinguishable from polyclonal antibody responses, indicating V1–V3 interactions within the Env trimer. In subject CH77, escape mutations mapped to the V2 region of Env, several of which selected for alterations of glycosylation. And in subject CH58, escape mutations mapped to the Env outer domain. In all three subjects, initial Nab recognition was followed by sequential rounds of virus escape and Nab elicitation, with Nab escape variants exhibiting variable costs to replication fitness. Although delayed in comparison with autologous CD8 T-cell responses, our findings show that Nabs appear earlier in HIV-1 infection than previously recognized, target diverse sites on HIV-1 Env, and impede virus replication at surprisingly low titers. The unexpected in vivo sensitivity of early transmitted/founder virus to Nabs raises the possibility that similarly low concentrations of vaccine-induced Nabs could impair virus acquisition in natural HIV-1 transmission, where the risk of infection is low and the number of viruses responsible for transmission and productive clinical infection is typically one.
Author Summary
Characterizing early adaptive immune responses to HIV-1 can inform studies of virus persistence, pathogenesis and natural history and can guide rational vaccine design. Previous studies examined the role of neutralizing antibodies (Nab) in acute and chronic HIV-1 infection but not against the precise envelope (Env) glycoproteins of transmitted/founder (T/F) viruses and not in direct comparison with autologous cellular immune responses in the same subjects. Here, we identified T/F HIV-1 env genes and their progeny in three subjects by single genome sequencing and performed a dynamic assessment of Nab responses based on env evolution and phenotypic changes in the Env glycoprotein over time. Surprisingly, we found genetic evidence of Nab activity as early as 2 weeks post-seroconversion, with Nab titers as low as 1∶20 to 1∶50 (IC50) selecting for virus escape. Nabs targeted different regions of the HIV-1 envelope (Env) in a strain-specific, conformationally sensitive manner. Although delayed in comparison with autologous CD8 T-cell responses, Nabs appeared earlier in HIV-1 infection than previously recognized and impeded virus entry at low titers. This raises the possibility that similarly low concentrations of vaccine-induced Nabs could impair virus acquisition in natural HIV-1 transmission, where the risk of infection is low and the number of viruses responsible for transmission and productive clinical infection is typically one.
PMCID: PMC3364956  PMID: 22693447
19.  Fitness Costs and Diversity of the Cytotoxic T Lymphocyte (CTL) Response Determine the Rate of CTL Escape during Acute and Chronic Phases of HIV Infection▿† 
Journal of Virology  2011;85(20):10518-10528.
HIV-1 often evades cytotoxic T cell (CTL) responses by generating variants that are not recognized by CTLs. We used single-genome amplification and sequencing of complete HIV genomes to identify longitudinal changes in the transmitted/founder virus from the establishment of infection to the viral set point at 1 year after the infection. We found that the rate of viral escape from CTL responses in a given patient decreases dramatically from acute infection to the viral set point. Using a novel mathematical model that tracks the dynamics of viral escape at multiple epitopes, we show that a number of factors could potentially contribute to a slower escape in the chronic phase of infection, such as a decreased magnitude of epitope-specific CTL responses, an increased fitness cost of escape mutations, or an increased diversity of the CTL response. In the model, an increase in the number of epitope-specific CTL responses can reduce the rate of viral escape from a given epitope-specific CTL response, particularly if CD8+ T cells compete for killing of infected cells or control virus replication nonlytically. Our mathematical framework of viral escape from multiple CTL responses can be used to predict the breadth and magnitude of HIV-specific CTL responses that need to be induced by vaccination to reduce (or even prevent) viral escape following HIV infection.
PMCID: PMC3187476  PMID: 21835793
20.  The TRIM5 Gene Modulates Penile Mucosal Acquisition of Simian Immunodeficiency Virus in Rhesus Monkeys ▿ †  
Journal of Virology  2011;85(19):10389-10398.
There is considerable variability in host susceptibility to human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection, but the host genetic determinants of that variability are not well understood. In addition to serving as a block for cross-species retroviral infection, TRIM5 was recently shown to play a central role in limiting primate immunodeficiency virus replication. We hypothesized that TRIM5 may also contribute to susceptibility to mucosal acquisition of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) in rhesus monkeys. We explored this hypothesis by establishing 3 cohorts of Indian-origin rhesus monkeys with different TRIM5 genotypes: homozygous restrictive, heterozygous permissive, and homozygous permissive. We then evaluated the effect of TRIM5 genotype on the penile transmission of SIVsmE660. We observed a significant effect of TRIM5 genotype on mucosal SIVsmE660 acquisition in that no SIV transmission occurred in monkeys with only restrictive TRIM5 alleles. In contrast, systemic SIV infections were initiated after preputial pocket exposures in monkeys that had at least one permissive TRIM5 allele. These data demonstrate that host genetic factors can play a critical role in restricting mucosal transmission of a primate immunodeficiency virus. In addition, we used our understanding of TRIM5 to establish a novel nonhuman primate penile transmission model for AIDS mucosal pathogenesis and vaccine research.
PMCID: PMC3196432  PMID: 21775457
21.  Epitopes Immediately below the Base of the V3 Loop of gp120 as Targets for the Initial Autologous Neutralizing Antibody Response in Two HIV-1 Subtype B-Infected Individuals ▿ † 
Journal of Virology  2011;85(18):9286-9299.
Epitopes that drive the initial autologous neutralizing antibody response in HIV-1-infected individuals could provide insights for vaccine design. Although highly strain specific, these epitopes are immunogenic, vulnerable to antibody attack on infectious virus, and could be involved in the ontogeny of broadly neutralizing antibody responses. To delineate such epitopes, we used site-directed mutagenesis, autologous plasma samples, and autologous monoclonal antibodies to map the amino acid changes that led to escape from the initial autologous neutralizing antibody response in two HIV-1 subtype B-infected individuals. Additional mapping of the epitopes was accomplished by using alanine scanning mutagenesis. Escape in the two individuals occurred by different pathways, but the responses in both cases appeared to be directed against the same region of gp120. In total, three amino acid positions were identified that were independently associated with autologous neutralization. Positions 295 and 332 are located immediately before and after the N- and C-terminal cysteines of the V3 loop, respectively, the latter of which affected an N-linked glycan that was critical to the neutralization epitope. Position 415 affected an N-linked glycan at position 413 in the C terminus of V4 that might mask epitopes near the base of V3. All three sites lie in close proximity on a four-stranded antiparallel sheet on the outer domain of gp120. We conclude that a region just below the base of the V3 loop, near the coreceptor binding domain of gp120, can be a target for autologous neutralization.
PMCID: PMC3165744  PMID: 21734041
22.  Identification of amino acid substitutions associated with neutralization phenotype in the human immunodeficiency virus type-1 subtype C gp120 
Virology  2010;409(2):163-174.
Neutralizing antibodies (Nabs) are thought to play an important role in prevention and control of HIV-1 infection and should be targeted by an AIDS vaccine. It is critical to understand how HIV-1 induces Nabs by analyzing viral sequences in both tested viruses and sera. Neutralization susceptibility to antibodies in autologous and heterologous plasma was determined for multiple Envs (3–6) from each of 15 subtype C infected-individuals. Heterologous neutralization was divided into two distinct groups: plasma with strong, cross-reactive neutralization (N=9) and plasma with weak neutralization (N=6). Plasma with cross-reactive heterologous Nabs also more potently neutralized contemporaneous autologous viruses. Analysis of Env sequences in plasma from both groups revealed a three-amino acid substitution pattern in the V4 region that was associated with greater neutralization potency and breadth. Identification of such potential neutralization signatures may have important implications for the development of HIV-1 vaccines capable of inducing Nabs to subtype C HIV-1.
PMCID: PMC3007099  PMID: 21036380
HIV-1; envelope; genetic variation; neutralization; signature
23.  Definition of the viral targets of protective HIV-1-specific T cell responses 
The efficacy of the CTL component of a future HIV-1 vaccine will depend on the induction of responses with the most potent antiviral activity and broad HLA class I restriction. However, current HIV vaccine designs are largely based on viral sequence alignments only, not incorporating experimental data on T cell function and specificity.
Here, 950 untreated HIV-1 clade B or -C infected individuals were tested for responses to sets of 410 overlapping peptides (OLP) spanning the entire HIV-1 proteome. For each OLP, a "protective ratio" (PR) was calculated as the ratio of median viral loads (VL) between OLP non-responders and responders.
For both clades, there was a negative relationship between the PR and the entropy of the OLP sequence. There was also a significant additive effect of multiple responses to beneficial OLP. Responses to beneficial OLP were of significantly higher functional avidity than responses to non-beneficial OLP. They also had superior in-vitro antiviral activities and, importantly, were at least as predictive of individuals' viral loads than their HLA class I genotypes.
The data thus identify immunogen sequence candidates for HIV and provide an approach for T cell immunogen design applicable to other viral infections.
PMCID: PMC3292987  PMID: 22152067
HIV specific CTL; clade B; clade C; HLA; vaccine immunogen design; functional avidity; epitope; entropy; immune correlate
24.  Epitope-Specific CD8+ T Lymphocytes Cross-Recognize Mutant Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) Sequences but Fail To Contain Very Early Evolution and Eventual Fixation of Epitope Escape Mutations during SIV Infection ▿ †  
Journal of Virology  2011;85(8):3746-3757.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) evade containment by CD8+ T lymphocytes through focused epitope mutations. However, because of limitations in the numbers of viral sequences that can be sampled, traditional sequencing technologies have not provided a true representation of the plasticity of these viruses or the intensity of CD8+ T lymphocyte-mediated selection pressure. Moreover, the strategy by which CD8+ T lymphocytes contain evolving viral quasispecies has not been characterized fully. In the present study we have employed ultradeep 454 pyrosequencing of virus and simultaneous staining of CD8+ T lymphocytes with multiple tetramers in the SIV/rhesus monkey model to explore the coevolution of virus and the cellular immune response during primary infection. We demonstrated that cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL)-mediated selection pressure on the infecting virus was manifested by epitope mutations as early as 21 days following infection. We also showed that CD8+ T lymphocytes cross-recognized wild-type and mutant epitopes and that these cross-reactive cell populations were present at a time when mutant forms of virus were present at frequencies of as low as 1 in 22,000 sequenced clones. Surprisingly, these cross-reactive cells became enriched in the epitope-specific CD8+ T lymphocyte population as viruses with mutant epitope sequences largely replaced those with epitope sequences of the transmitted virus. These studies demonstrate that mutant epitope-specific CD8+ T lymphocytes that are present at a time when viral mutant epitope sequences are detected at extremely low frequencies fail to contain the later accumulation and fixation of the mutant epitope sequences in the viral quasispecies.
PMCID: PMC3126128  PMID: 21307185
25.  Recurrent Signature Patterns in HIV-1 B Clade Envelope Glycoproteins Associated with either Early or Chronic Infections 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(9):e1002209.
Here we have identified HIV-1 B clade Envelope (Env) amino acid signatures from early in infection that may be favored at transmission, as well as patterns of recurrent mutation in chronic infection that may reflect common pathways of immune evasion. To accomplish this, we compared thousands of sequences derived by single genome amplification from several hundred individuals that were sampled either early in infection or were chronically infected. Samples were divided at the outset into hypothesis-forming and validation sets, and we used phylogenetically corrected statistical strategies to identify signatures, systematically scanning all of Env. Signatures included single amino acids, glycosylation motifs, and multi-site patterns based on functional or structural groupings of amino acids. We identified signatures near the CCR5 co-receptor-binding region, near the CD4 binding site, and in the signal peptide and cytoplasmic domain, which may influence Env expression and processing. Two signatures patterns associated with transmission were particularly interesting. The first was the most statistically robust signature, located in position 12 in the signal peptide. The second was the loss of an N-linked glycosylation site at positions 413–415; the presence of this site has been recently found to be associated with escape from potent and broad neutralizing antibodies, consistent with enabling a common pathway for immune escape during chronic infection. Its recurrent loss in early infection suggests it may impact fitness at the time of transmission or during early viral expansion. The signature patterns we identified implicate Env expression levels in selection at viral transmission or in early expansion, and suggest that immune evasion patterns that recur in many individuals during chronic infection when antibodies are present can be selected against when the infection is being established prior to the adaptive immune response.
Author Summary
A single virus most often establishes HIV-1 infection. As a consequence, virus sampled early in infection is usually very homogeneous. A few months into the infection, the virus begins to accumulate mutations as it evolves to evade HIV-specific immune responses mounted by the infected host. During chronic infection, the viral population diversifies, reflecting the history of mutations that arose within that infected individual. We hypothesized that particular amino acids might confer a selective advantage during transmission or early infection, and others might recur during chronic infection because they provide common and effective strategies of immune escape. We compared a large number of viral sequences from several hundred infected people sampled soon after transmission or during chronic infection to identify such infection-status “signature” patterns. A particularly robust signature was identified in the signal peptide of Envelope, a region that regulates its expression. Other signatures were found in regions of Envelope that interact with its cellular receptors, or are implicated in immune escape.
PMCID: PMC3182927  PMID: 21980282

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