Purpose of Review
An effective HIV vaccine is a global health priority. We describe lessons learned from four HIV vaccine trials that failed to demonstrate efficacy and one that showed modest protection as a pathway forward.
The Merck Ad5 phase IIb T-cell vaccine failed to show efficacy and might have increased the risk of HIV acquisition in MSM. While VaxGen gp120 alone was not efficacious in groups at high risk for HIV-1 infection, the RV144 ALVAC prime and gp120 boost regimen showed 31% efficacy in low incidence heterosexuals. All trials demonstrated the limitations of available laboratory and animal models to both assess relevant vaccine-induced immune responses and to predict clinical trial outcome. Analysis of innate and adaptive responses induced in RV 144 will guide future trial design.
Future HIV vaccine trials should define the RV 144 immune responses relevant to protection, improve durability and level of protection, and assess efficacy in diverse risk groups. New strategies examining heterologous vector prime boost, universal inserts, replicating vectors, and novel protein/adjuvant immunogens should be explored to induce both T-cell and antibody responses. HIV vaccine development requires innovative ideas and a sustained long-term commitment of scientists, governments, and the community.
HIV; vaccine; Thailand; clinical trial; efficacy
HIV Associated Dementia (HAD) is a complication of HIV infection in developed countries and is still poorly defined in resource-limited settings. In this study we investigated the expression of the monocyte phenotype CD14CD16HLADR and the inflammatory profiles in monocytes supernatants by surface-enhanced laser desorption/ionization-time of flight (SELDI-TOF) mass spectrometry in a cohort of HAD and non-HAD Thai volunteers prior to the initiation of ARV. The CD14CD16HLADR phenotype was significantly increased in monocytes from HAD and non-HAD versus negative controls, but there was no difference in phenotype and in the secretion protein profiles between the two seropositive groups. In addition, monocytes supernatants from HAD and non-HAD did not induced apoptosis or cell death in brain aggregate culture. In conclusion it appears that HAD in Thai individuals has a different immunological profile then in North America cohorts.
HIV-1; Thailand; Monocyte markers; HAD
The Thai HIV phase III prime-boost trial (RV144) using ALVAC-HIV® (vCP1521) and AIDSVAX B/E® was, to our knowledge, the first to demonstrate acquisition efficacy. Vaccine-induced, cell-mediated immune responses were assessed. T cell epitope mapping studies using IFN-γ ELISPOT were performed on PBMC from HIV-1 uninfected vaccine (N=61) and placebo (N=10) recipients using HIV-1 Env peptides. Positive responses were measured in 25 (41%) vaccinees and were predominantly CD4+ T cell mediated. Responses were targeted within the HIV Env region, with 15/25 (60%) of vaccinees recognizing peptides derived from the V2 region of HIV-1 Env, which includes the α4β7 integrin binding site. Intracellular cytokine staining confirmed that Env responses predominated (19/30; 63% of vaccine recipients) and were mediated by polyfunctional effector memory CD4+ T cells, with the majority of responders producing both IL-2 and IFN-γ (12/19; 63%). HIV-Env Ab titers were higher in subjects with IL-2 compared to those without IL-2 secreting HIV-Env specific effector memory T cells. Proliferation assays revealed that HIV Ag-specific T cells were CD4+ with the majority (80%) expressing CD107a. HIV-specific T cell lines obtained from vaccine recipients confirmed V2 specificity, polyfunctionality and functional cytolytic capacity. While the RV144 T cell responses were modest in frequency compared to humoral immune responses, the CD4+ T cell response was directed to HIV-1 Env and more particularly the V2 region.
Human; Vaccination; Viral; AIDS; HIV-1; T cells
We investigated the impact of neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) on CD4 T-cell count and viral load in a cohort of HAART recipients who underwent extended structured treatment interruption.
Substudy of NAb in the AIDS Clinical Trials Group 5170 trial.
Early plasma samples from 50 volunteers who discontinued HAART were evaluated in a peripheral blood mononuclear cell-based neutralization assay against a panel of four subtype B primary isolates.
We found that high-titer (90% inhibitory dose > 500) NAb against two or more isolates was associated with reduced viral load (P=0.003 at 12-week posttreatment interruption). This effect faded with time, losing significance (P=0.161) by study conclusion. Participants possessing the highest NAb levels against individual isolates appeared more likely to have lower viral loads with the association gaining significance against the R5-tropic primary isolate US1 (P=0.005). There was no association between broader neutralization and CD4 T-cell slope over time.
The data suggest that high-titer NAb responses at the time of treatment interruption are associated with reduced viral load over time, but not CD4+ T-cell decline.
CD4+ T cells; HAART; HIV; neutralizing antibodies; viral load
Recently, the RV144 randomized, double-blind, efficacy trial in Thailand reported that a prime-boost human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) vaccine regimen conferred ∼30% protection against HIV acquisition. However, different analyses seemed to give conflicting results, and a heated debate ensued as scientists and the broader public struggled with their interpretation. The lack of accounting for statistical principles helped flame the debate, and we leverage these principles to provide a more scientific interpretation. We first address interpretation of frequentist results, including interpretation of P values, synthesis of results from multiple analyses (ie, intention-to-treat versus per-protocol/fully immunized), and accounting for external efficacy trials. Second, we address how Bayesian statistics, which provide clearly interpretable statements about probabilities that the vaccine efficacy takes certain values, provide more information for weighing the evidence about efficacy than do frequentist statistics alone. Third, we evaluate RV144 for completeness of end point ascertainment and integrity of blinding, necessary tasks for establishing robustly interpretable results.
The crucial role of recombination in HIV-1 biology is being increasingly recognized. In vitro studies have shown that up to 30 strand-transfer events may occur per viral replication cycle. Thus, recombination may surpass mutation as a major mechanism driving HIV-1 evolution. Currently, recombinant strains comprise 37% of the full-genome HIV-1 sequence database, including sequences representing 47 Circulating Recombinant Forms (CRFs) and more than 250 different Unique Recombinant Forms (URFs). Mapping of recombination breakpoints helps establish relationships among strains that are related by descent, such as CRF07_BC and CRF08_BC in China, and sheds light on their origin and epidemic spread. Additionally, unrelated recombinants sharing common breakpoints may reflect recombination hotspots within the viral genome. Here we present a software tool, RecDraw, for the graphical representation and efficient comparison of recombinant HIV-1 structures and breakpoints. RecDraw is a platform-flexible, Java stand-alone application available through http://www.hivresearch.org/research.php?ServiceID = 5&SubServiceID = 6.
Proteasomes are critical for the processing of antigens for presentation through the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I pathway. HIV-1 Gag protein is a component of several experimental HIV-1 vaccines. Therefore, understanding the processing of HIV-1 Gag protein and the resulting epitope repertoire is essential. Purified proteasomes from mature dendritic cells (DC) and activated CD4+ T cells from the same volunteer were used to cleave full-length Gag-p24 protein, and the resulting peptide fragments were identified by mass spectrometry. Distinct proteasomal degradation patterns and peptide fragments were unique to either mature DC or activated CD4+ T cells. Almost half of the peptides generated were cell type specific. Two additional differences were observed in the peptides identified from the two cell types. These were in the HLA-B35-Px epitope and the HLA-B27-KK10 epitope. These epitopes have been linked to HIV-1 disease progression. Our results suggest that the source of generation of precursor MHC class I epitopes may be a critical factor for the induction of relevant epitope-specific cytotoxic T cells.
The viral load setpoint (VLS) is an important predictor of HIV disease progression, but there is a lack of information regarding the VLS and its possible determinants in African populations.
Initially HIV negative adults from three distinct groups (female barworkers, females and males from the general population) were followed for up to four years. The VLS was calculated for 108 seroconverters and associations of the VLS with possible risk factors were analyzed using univariate and multivariate regression.
The median VLS for female barworkers, females and males from the general population were 69,850, 28,600 and 158,000 RNA copies/ml respectively. Significant associations with an elevated viral load were observed for male gender (Risk Ratio (RR)=1.83, 95% confidence interval (95%CI)=1.14–2.93), the expression of harmful HLA I alleles (RR=1.73, 95%CI=1.13–2.66) and multiple infection with different HIV-1 subtypes (RR=1.65, 95%CI =1.03–2.66). Barworkers were considerably more often infected with different HIV-1 subtypes than participants from the general population.
Our study confirms that gender and the expression of different HLA class I alleles are important determinants of the viremia at VLS and it also corroborates an earlier finding that multiple infection with different HIV-1 subtypes is associated with a higher VLS.
HIV-1 infection; Acute infection; Viral load setpoint; Multiple infection; HLA class I alleles; Africa
The W-curve was originally developed as a graphical visualization technique for viewing DNA and RNA sequences. Its ability to render features of DNA also makes it suitable for computational studies. Its main advantage in this area is utilizing a single-pass algorithm for comparing the sequences. Avoiding recursion during sequence alignments offers advantages for speed and in-process resources. The graphical technique also allows for multiple models of comparison to be used depending on the nucleotide patterns embedded in similar whole genomic sequences. The W-curve approach allows us to compare large numbers of samples quickly.
We are currently tuning the algorithm to accommodate quirks specific to HIV-1 genomic sequences so that it can be used to aid in diagnostic and vaccine efforts. Tracking the molecular evolution of the virus has been greatly hampered by gap associated problems predominantly embedded within the envelope gene of the virus. Gaps and hypermutation of the virus slow conventional string based alignments of the whole genome. This paper describes the W-curve algorithm itself, and how we have adapted it for comparison of similar HIV-1 genomes. A treebuilding method is developed with the
W-curve that utilizes a novel Cylindrical Coordinate distance method and gap analysis method. HIV-1 C2-V5 env sequence regions from a Mother/Infant cohort study are used in the comparison.
The output distance matrix and neighbor results produced by the W-curve are functionally equivalent to those from Clustal for C2-V5 sequences in the mother/infant pairs infected with CRF01_AE.
Significant potential exists for utilizing this method in place of conventional string based alignment of HIV-1 genomes, such as Clustal X. With W-curve heuristic alignment, it may be possible to obtain clinically useful results in a short time—short enough to affect clinical choices for acute treatment. A description of the W-curve generation process, including a comparison technique of aligning extremes of the curves to effectively phase-shift them past the HIV-1 gap problem, is presented. Besides yielding similar neighbor-joining phenogram topologies, most Mother and Infant C2-V5 sequences in the cohort pairs geometrically map closest to each other, indicating that W-curve heuristics overcame any gap problem.
In the RV144 HIV-1 vaccine efficacy trial, IgG antibody (Ab) binding levels to variable regions 1 and 2 (V1V2) of the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein gp120 were an inverse correlate of risk of HIV-1 infection. To determine if V1V2-specific Abs cross-react with V1V2 from different HIV-1 subtypes, if the nature of the V1V2 antigen used to asses cross-reactivity influenced infection risk, and to identify immune assays for upcoming HIV-1 vaccine efficacy trials, new V1V2-scaffold antigens were designed and tested. Protein scaffold antigens carrying the V1V2 regions from HIV-1 subtypes A, B, C, D or CRF01_AE were assayed in pilot studies, and six were selected to assess cross-reactive Abs in the plasma from the original RV144 case-control cohort (41 infected vaccinees, 205 frequency-matched uninfected vaccinees, and 40 placebo recipients) using ELISA and a binding Ab multiplex assay. IgG levels to these antigens were assessed as correlates of risk in vaccine recipients using weighted logistic regression models. Levels of Abs reactive with subtype A, B, C and CRF01_AE V1V2-scaffold antigens were all significant inverse correlates of risk (p-values of 0.0008–0.05; estimated odds ratios of 0.53–0.68 per 1 standard deviation increase). Thus, levels of vaccine-induced IgG Abs recognizing V1V2 regions from multiple HIV-1 subtypes, and presented on different scaffolds, constitute inverse correlates of risk for HIV-1 infection in the RV144 vaccine trial. The V1V2 antigens provide a link between RV144 and upcoming HIV-1 vaccine trials, and identify reagents and methods for evaluating V1V2 Abs as possible correlates of protection against HIV-1 infection.
The RV144 HIV-1 trial of the canary pox vector (ALVAC-HIV) plus the gp120 AIDSVAX B/E vaccine demonstrated an estimated efficacy of 31%, that correlated directly with antibodies to HIV-1 envelope variable regions 1 and 2 (V1–V2). Genetic analysis of trial viruses revealed increased vaccine efficacy against viruses matching the vaccine strain at V2 residue 169. Here, we isolated four V2 monoclonal antibodies from RV144 vaccinees that recognize residue 169, neutralize laboratory-adapted HIV-1, and mediate killing of field isolate HIV-1-infected CD4+ T cells. Crystal structures of two of the V2 antibodies demonstrated residue 169 can exist within divergent helical and loop conformations, which contrasted dramatically with the beta strand conformation previously observed with a broadly neutralizing antibody PG9. Thus, RV144 vaccine-induced immune pressure appears to target a region that may be both sequence variable and structurally polymorphic. Variation may signal sites of HIV-1 envelope vulnerability, providing vaccine designers with new options.
Due to superior long-term toxicity profile, AZT and TDF are preferred to d4T for first-line antiretroviral regimens. However, short-term d4T use could be beneficial in avoiding AZT-induced anemia.
We randomized (1:1:1) 150 treatment-naive Thai HIV-infected adults with CD4 count <350 cells/mm3 to arm 1: 24-week GPO-VIR S30® (d4T+3TC+NVP) followed by 48-week GPO-VIR Z250® (AZT+3TC+NVP); arm 2: 72-week GPO-VIR Z250®; or arm 3: 72-week TDF+FTC+NVP. Hemoglobin (Hb), dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, neuropathic signs, estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), CD4 count, plasma HIV RNA, and adherence were assessed.
In ITT analysis, mean Hb decreased from baseline to week 24 in arm 2 compared to arm 1 (-0.19 vs 0.68 g/dL, P=0.001) and arm 3 (0.48 g/dL, P=0.010). Neuropathic signs were more common in arm 2 compared to arm 3 (20.4 vs 4.2%, P=0.028) at week 24. There were no differences in changes in peripheral fat and eGFR from baseline to weeks 24 and 72 among arms. CD4 count increased more in arm 1 than arms 2 and 3 from baseline to week 24 (168 vs 117 and 118 cells/mm3, P=0.01 and 0.02, respectively) but the increase from baseline to week 72 was similar among arms.
A 24-week d4T lead-in therapy caused less anemia and greater initial CD4 count rise than initiating treatment with AZT. This strategy could be considered in patients with baseline anemia or low CD4 count. If confirmed in a larger study, this may guide global recommendations on antiretroviral initiation where AZT is more commonly used than TDF.
Standardized assays to assess vaccine and antiviral drug efficacy are critical for the development of protective HIV-1 vaccines and drugs. These immune assays will be advanced by the development of standardized viral stocks, such as HIV-1 infectious molecular clones (IMC), that i) express a reporter gene, ii) are representative of globally diverse subtypes and iii) are engineered to easily exchange envelope (env) genes for expression of sequences of interest. Thus far, a subtype B IMC backbone expressing Renilla luciferase (LucR), and into which the ectodomain of heterologous env coding sequences can be expressed has been successfully developed but as execution of HIV-1 vaccine efficacy trials shifts increasingly to non-subtype B epidemics (Southern African and Southeast Asia), non-subtype B HIV-1 reagents are needed to support vaccine development. Here we describe two IMCs derived from subtypes C and CRF01_AE HIV-1 primary isolates expressing LucR (IMC.LucR) that were engineered to express heterologous gp160 Envs. 18 constructs expressing various subtypes C and CRF01_AE Envs, mostly acute, in subtype-matched and –unmatched HIV backbones were tested for functionality and neutralization sensitivity. Our results suggest a possible effect of non-env HIV-1 genes on the interaction of Env and neutralizing antibodies and highlight the need to generate a library of IMCs representative of the HIV-1 subtype spectrum to be used as standardized neutralization assay reagents for assessing HIV-1 vaccine efficacy.
Sensitive assays are needed to meaningfully assess low levels of neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) that may be important for protection against the acquisition of HIV-1 infection in vaccine recipients. The current assay of choice uses a non-lymphoid cell line (TZM-bl) that may lack sensitivity owing to over expression of CD4 and CCR5. We used transfection of a human CD4+/CXCR4+/α4β7+ T-lymphoblastoid cell line (A3.01) with a CMV IE promoter-driven CCR5neo vector to stably express CCR5. The resulting line, designated A3R5, is permissive to a wide range of CCR5-tropic circulating strains of HIV-1, including HIV-1 molecular clones containing a Tat-inducible Renilla luciferase reporter gene and expressing multiple Env subtypes. Flow cytometric analysis found CCR5 surface expression on A3R5 cells to be markedly less than TZM-bl but similar to CD3.8 stimulated PBMC. More importantly, neutralization mediated by a diverse panel of monoclonal antibodies, HIV-1 positive polyclonal sera and sCD4 was consistently greater in A3R5 compared to TZM-bl cells. The A3R5 cell line provides a novel approach to guide the development and qualification of promising new HIV-1 vaccine immunogens.
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.
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.
An immune correlates analysis of the RV144 HIV-1 vaccine trial revealed that antibody responses to the gp120 V1/V2 region correlated inversely with infection risk. The RV144 protein immunogens (A244-rp120 and MN-rgp120) were modified by an N-terminal 11-amino-acid deletion (Δ11) and addition of a herpes simplex virus (HSV) gD protein-derived tag (gD). We investigated the effects of these modifications on gp120 expression, antigenicity, and immunogenicity by comparing unmodified A244 gp120 with both Δ11 deletion and gD tag and with Δ11 only. Analysis of A244 gp120, with or without Δ11 or gD, demonstrated that the Δ11 deletion, without the addition of gD, was sufficient for enhanced antigenicity to gp120 C1 region, conformational V2, and V1/V2 gp120 conformational epitopes. RV144 vaccinee serum IgGs bound more avidly to A244 gp120 Δ11 than to the unmodified gp120, and their binding was blocked by C1, V2, and V1/V2 antibodies. Rhesus macaques immunized with the three different forms of A244 gp120 proteins gave similar levels of gp120 antibody titers, although higher antibody titers developed earlier in A244 Δ11 gp120-immunized animals. Conformational V1/V2 monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) gave significantly higher levels of blocking of plasma IgG from A244 Δ11 gp120-immunized animals than IgG from animals immunized with unmodified A244 gp120, thus indicating a qualitative difference in the V1/V2 antibodies induced by A244 Δ11 gp120. These results demonstrate that deletion of N-terminal residues in the RV144 A244 gp120 immunogen improves both envelope antigenicity and immunogenicity.
The detailed examination of the antibody repertoire from RV144 provides a unique template for understanding potentially protective antibody functions. Some potential immune correlates of protection were untested in the correlates analyses due to inherent assay limitations, as well as the need to keep the correlates analysis focused on a limited number of endpoints to achieve statistical power. In an RV144 pilot study, we determined that RV144 vaccination elicited antibodies that could bind infectious virions (including the vaccine strains HIV-1 CM244 and HIV-1 MN and an HIV-1 strain expressing transmitted/founder Env, B.WITO.c). Among vaccinees with the highest IgG binding antibody profile, the majority (78%) captured the infectious vaccine strain virus (CM244), while a smaller proportion of vaccinees (26%) captured HIV-1 transmitted/founder Env virus. We demonstrated that vaccine-elicited HIV-1 gp120 antibodies of multiple specificities (V3, V2, conformational C1, and gp120 conformational) mediated capture of infectious virions. Although capture of infectious HIV-1 correlated with other humoral immune responses, the extent of variation between these humoral responses and virion capture indicates that virion capture antibodies occupy unique immunological space.
The Thai phase III HIV vaccine trial's modest efficacy (VE 31.2% 95% CI 1.1, 51.2) represents the first demonstration that a vaccine can protect against HIV acquisition. Baseline variables of age, gender, marital status, and risk did not modify vaccine efficacy (VE). Here we explore behavioral risk and efficacy at 6 monthly intervals following vaccination.
Behavioral risk was assessed with a self-administered questionnaire every 6 months during trial participation. Both the acquisition endpoint and the early viral load endpoint are examined for interactions with risk status over time and temporal effects following vaccination.
Risk for HIV acquisition is low in each risk group, but the majority of participants reported higher-risk behavior at least once during the study (N= 9187, 58%). In post-hoc analyses, comparing those participants categorized as high or rising risk at least once during study follow-up versus those who maintained low or medium risk behavior as a time-varying covariate, the interaction of risk status and acquisition efficacy is significant (P = 0.010) with greater benefit in the lower risk individuals. VE appears to peak early with an estimate of cumulative VE = 60% through 12 months after initial vaccination (95% CI 22 –80%), and declines quickly. Vaccination did not appear to affect viral load in either early or late infections.
Future HIV vaccine trials must recognize potential interactions between challenge intensity and risk heterogeneity in the population and treatment effects. The regimen tested in the Thai phase III trial may benefit from extended immunization schedules.
The RV144 HIV-1 vaccine trial (Thailand, 2003 to 2009), using immunogens genetically matched to the regional epidemic, demonstrated the first evidence of efficacy for an HIV-1 vaccine. Here we studied the molecular evolution of the HIV-1 epidemic from the time of immunogen selection to the execution of the efficacy trial. We studied HIV-1 genetic diversity among 390 volunteers who were deferred from enrollment in RV144 due to preexisting HIV-1 infection using a multiregion hybridization assay, full-genome sequencing, and phylogenetic analyses. The subtype distribution was 91.7% CRF01_AE, 3.5% subtype B, 4.3% B/CRF01_AE recombinants, and 0.5% dual infections. CRF01_AE strains were 31% more diverse than the ones from the 1990s Thai epidemic. Sixty-nine percent of subtype B strains clustered with the cosmopolitan Western B strains. Ninety-three percent of B/CRF01_AE recombinants were unique; recombination breakpoint analysis showed that these strains were highly embedded within the larger network that integrates recombinants from East/Southeast Asia. Compared to Thai sequences from the early 1990s, the distance to the RV144 immunogens increased 52% to 68% for CRF01_AE Env immunogens and 12% to 29% for subtype B immunogens. Forty-three percent to 48% of CRF01_AE sequences differed from the sequence of the vaccine insert in Env variable region 2 positions 169 and 181, which were implicated in vaccine sieve effects in RV144. In conclusion, compared to the molecular picture at the early stages of vaccine development, our results show an overall increase in the genetic complexity of viruses in the Thai epidemic and in the distance to vaccine immunogens, which should be considered at the time of the analysis of the trial results.
Fourth generation (4thG) immunoassay (IA) is becoming the standard HIV screening method but was not available when the Fiebig acute HIV infection (AHI) staging system was proposed. Here we evaluated AHI staging based on a 4thG IA (4thG staging).
Screening for AHI was performed in real-time by pooled nucleic acid testing (NAT, n=48,828 samples) and sequential enzyme immunoassay (EIA, n=3,939 samples) identifying 63 subjects with non-reactive 2nd generation EIA (Fiebig stages I (n=25), II (n=7), III (n=29), IV (n=2)). The majority of samples tested (n=53) were subtype CRF_01AE (77%). NAT+ subjects were re-staged into three 4thG stages: stage 1 (n=20; 4th gen EIA-, 3rd gen EIA-), stage 2 (n=12; 4th gen EIA+, 3rd gen EIA-), stage 3 (n=31; 4th gen EIA+, 3rd gen EIA+, Western blot-/indeterminate). 4thG staging distinguishes groups of AHI subjects by time since presumed HIV exposure, pattern of CD8+ T, B and natural killer cell absolute numbers, and HIV RNA and DNA levels. This staging system further stratified Fiebig I subjects: 18 subjects in 4thG stage 1 had lower HIV RNA and DNA levels than 7 subjects in 4thG stage 2.
Using 4th generation IA as part of AHI staging distinguishes groups of patients by time since exposure to HIV, lymphocyte numbers and HIV viral burden. It identifies two groups of Fiebig stage I subjects who display different levels of HIV RNA and DNA, which may have implication for HIV cure. 4th generation IA should be incorporated into AHI staging systems.
Acute HIV infection; Primary HIV infection; Fiebig stage; 4thG stage; Enzyme immunoassay; 4th generation EIA; 2nd generation EIA; Nucleic acid testing; Reservoir; Functional cure
The ALVAC-HIV/AIDSVAX-B/E RV144 vaccine trial showed an estimated efficacy of 31%. RV144 secondary immune correlate analysis demonstrated that the combination of low plasma anti-HIV-1 Env IgA antibodies and high levels of antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) inversely correlate with infection risk. One hypothesis is that the observed protection in RV144 is partially due to ADCC-mediating antibodies. We found that the majority (73 to 90%) of a representative group of vaccinees displayed plasma ADCC activity, usually (96.2%) blocked by competition with the C1 region-specific A32 Fab fragment. Using memory B-cell cultures and antigen-specific B-cell sorting, we isolated 23 ADCC-mediating nonclonally related antibodies from 6 vaccine recipients. These antibodies targeted A32-blockable conformational epitopes (n = 19), a non-A32-blockable conformational epitope (n = 1), and the gp120 Env variable loops (n = 3). Fourteen antibodies mediated cross-clade target cell killing. ADCC-mediating antibodies displayed modest levels of V-heavy (VH) chain somatic mutation (0.5 to 1.5%) and also displayed a disproportionate usage of VH1 family genes (74%), a phenomenon recently described for CD4-binding site broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs). Maximal ADCC activity of VH1 antibodies correlated with mutation frequency. The polyclonality and low mutation frequency of these VH1 antibodies reveal fundamental differences in the regulation and maturation of these ADCC-mediating responses compared to VH1 bNAbs.
The current study assessed the immunogenicity and protective efficacy of various prime-boost vaccine regimens in rhesus macaques using combinations of recombinant DNA (rDNA), recombinant MVA (rMVA), and subunit gp140 protein. The rDNA and rMVA vectors were constructed to express Env from HIV-1 subtype CRF01_AE and Gag-Pol from CRF01_AE or SIVmac 239. One of the rMVAs, MVA/CMDR, has been recently tested in humans. Immunizations were administered at months 0 and 1 (prime) and months 3 and 6 (boost). After priming, HIV env-specific serum IgG was detected in monkeys receiving gp140 alone or rMVA but not in those receiving rDNA. Titers were enhanced in these groups after boosting either with gp140 alone or with rMVA plus gp140. The groups that received the rDNA prime developed env-specific IgG after boosting with rMVA with or without gp140. HIV Env-specific serum IgG binding antibodies were elicited more frequently and of higher titer, and breadth of neutralizing antibodies was increased with the inclusion of the subunit Env boost. T cell responses were measured by tetramer binding to Gag p11c in Mamu-A*01 macaques, and by IFN-gamma ELISPOT assay to SIV-Gag. T cell responses were induced after vaccination with the highest responses seen in macaques immunized with rDNA and rMVA. Macaques were challenged intravenously with a novel SHIV-E virus (SIVmac239 Gag-Pol with an HIV-1 subtype E-Env CAR402). Post challenge with SHIV-E, antibody titers were boosted in all groups and peaked at 4 weeks. Robust T cell responses were seen in all groups post challenge and in macaques immunized with rDNA and rMVA a clear boosting of responses was seen. A greater than 2 log drop in RNA copies/ml at peak viremia and earlier set point was achieved in macaques primed with rDNA, and boosted with rMVA/SHIV-AE plus gp140. Post challenge viremia in macaques immunized with other regimens was not significantly different to that of controls. These results demonstrate that a gp140 subunit and inclusion of SIV Gag-Pol may be critical for control of SHIV post challenge.
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.