Primary HIV-1 isolates are relatively resistant to neutralization by antibodies commonly induced after infection or vaccination. This is generally attributed to masking of sensitive epitopes by the V1/V2 domain and/or glycans situated at various positions in Env. Here we identified a novel masking effect mediated by subtype C-specific V3 sequences that contributes to the V1/V2-independent and glycan-independent neutralization resistance of chimeric and primary Envs to antibodies directed against multiple neutralization domains. Positions at several conserved charged and hydrophobic sites in the V3 crown and stem were also shown to affect neutralization phenotype. These results indicated that substitutions typically present in subtype C and related V3 sequences influence the overall conformation of native Env in a way that occludes multiple neutralization targets located both within and outside of the V3 domain, and may reflect an alternative mechanism for neutralization resistance that is particularly active in subtype C and related isolates.
HIV-1; Subtype C; V3 domain; Conformational effect; Epitope masking
HIV-1–specific immunoglobulin G (IgG) subclass antibodies bind to distinct cellular Fc receptors. Antibodies of the same epitope specificity but of a different subclass therefore can have different antibody effector functions. The study of IgG subclass profiles between different vaccine regimens used in clinical trials with divergent efficacy outcomes can provide information on the quality of the vaccine-induced B cell response. We show that HIV-1–specific IgG3 distinguished two HIV-1 vaccine efficacy studies (RV144 and VAX003 clinical trials) and correlated with decreased risk of HIV-1 infection in a blinded follow-up case-control study with the RV144 vaccine. HIV-1–specific IgG3 responses were not long-lived, which was consistent with the waning efficacy of the RV144 vaccine. These data suggest that specific vaccine-induced HIV-1 IgG3 should be tested in future studies of immune correlates in HIV-1 vaccine efficacy trials.
The phase III RV144 HIV-1 vaccine trial estimated vaccine efficacy (VE) to be 31.2%. This trial demonstrated that the presence of HIV-1–specific IgG-binding Abs to envelope (Env) V1V2 inversely correlated with infection risk, while the presence of Env-specific plasma IgA Abs directly correlated with risk of HIV-1 infection. Moreover, Ab-dependent cellular cytotoxicity responses inversely correlated with risk of infection in vaccine recipients with low IgA; therefore, we hypothesized that vaccine-induced Fc receptor–mediated (FcR-mediated) Ab function is indicative of vaccine protection. We sequenced exons and surrounding areas of FcR-encoding genes and found one FCGR2C tag SNP (rs114945036) that associated with VE against HIV-1 subtype CRF01_AE, with lysine at position 169 (169K) in the V2 loop (CRF01_AE 169K). Individuals carrying CC in this SNP had an estimated VE of 15%, while individuals carrying CT or TT exhibited a VE of 91%. Furthermore, the rs114945036 SNP was highly associated with 3 other FCGR2C SNPs (rs138747765, rs78603008, and rs373013207). Env-specific IgG and IgG3 Abs, IgG avidity, and neutralizing Abs inversely correlated with CRF01_AE 169K HIV-1 infection risk in the CT- or TT-carrying vaccine recipients only. These data suggest a potent role of Fc-γ receptors and Fc-mediated Ab function in conferring protection from transmission risk in the RV144 VE trial.
The V3 region of the HIV-1 envelope (Env) glycoprotein gp120 is a key functional domain yet it exhibits distinct mutational patterns across subtypes. Here an invariant residue (Ile 309) was replaced with Leu in 7 subtype C patient-derived Envs from recent infection and 4 related neutralizing antibody escape variants that emerged later. For these 11 Envs, I309L did not alter replication in primary CD4 T cells; however, replication in monocyte-derived macrophages was enhanced. Infection of cell lines with low CD4 or CCR5 revealed that I309L enhanced utilization of CD4 but did not affect the ability to use CCR5. This CD4-enhanced phenotype tracked with sensitivity to sCD4, indicating increased exposure of the CD4 binding site. The results suggest that Ile 309 preserves a V3-mediated masking function that occludes the CD4 binding site. The findings point to an immune evasion strategy in subtype C Env to protect this vulnerable immune target.
We tested the concept of combining DNA with protein to improve anti-HIV Env systemic and mucosal humoral immune responses. Rhesus macaques were vaccinated with DNA, DNA&protein co-immunization or DNA prime followed by protein boost, and the magnitude and mucosal dissemination of the antibody responses were monitored in both plasma and mucosal secretions. We achieved induction of robust humoral responses by optimized DNA vaccination delivered by in vivo electroporation. These responses were greatly increased upon administration of a protein boost. Importantly, a co-immunization regimen of DNA&protein injected in the same muscle at the same time induced the highest systemic binding and neutralizing antibodies to homologous or heterologous Env as well as the highest Env-specific IgG in saliva. Inclusion of protein in the vaccine resulted in more immunized animals with Env-specific IgG in rectal fluids. Inclusion of DNA in the vaccine significantly increased the longevity of systemic humoral immune responses, whereas protein immunization, either as the only vaccine component or as boost after DNA prime, was followed by a great decline of humoral immune responses overtime. We conclude that DNA&protein co-delivery in a simple vaccine regimen combines the strength of each vaccine component, resulting in improved magnitude, extended longevity and increased mucosal dissemination of the induced antibodies in immunized rhesus macaques.
The extreme diversity of HIV-1 strains presents a formidable challenge for HIV-1 vaccine design. Although antibodies (Abs) can neutralize HIV-1 and potentially protect against infection, antibodies that target the immunogenic viral surface protein gp120 have widely variable and poorly predictable cross-strain reactivity. Here, we developed a novel computational approach, the Method of Dynamic Epitopes, for identification of neutralization epitopes targeted by anti-HIV-1 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). Our data demonstrate that this approach, based purely on calculated energetics and 3D structural information, accurately predicts the presence of neutralization epitopes targeted by V3-specific mAbs 2219 and 447-52D in any HIV-1 strain. The method was used to calculate the range of conservation of these specific epitopes across all circulating HIV-1 viruses. Accurately identifying an Ab-targeted neutralization epitope in a virus by computational means enables easy prediction of the breadth of reactivity of specific mAbs across the diversity of thousands of different circulating HIV-1 variants and facilitates rational design and selection of immunogens mimicking specific mAb-targeted epitopes in a multivalent HIV-1 vaccine. The defined epitopes can also be used for the purpose of epitope-specific analyses of breakthrough sequences recorded in vaccine clinical trials. Thus, our study is a prototype for a valuable tool for rational HIV-1 vaccine design.
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.
We evaluated the immunogenicity and efficacy of Vaxfectin® adjuvanted SIV DNA vaccines in mice and macaques. Vaccination of mice with Vaxfectin® adjuvanted SIV gag DNA induced higher humoral immune responses than administration of unadjuvanted DNA, whereas similar levels of cellular immunity were elicited. Vaxfectin® adjuvanted SIVmac251 gag and env DNA immunization of rhesus macaques was used to examine magnitude, durability, and efficacy of humoral immunity. Vaccinated macaques elicited potent neutralizing antibodies able to cross-neutralize the heterologous SIVsmE660 Env. We found remarkable durability of Gag and Env humoral responses, sustained during ~2 y of follow-up. The Env-specific antibody responses induced by Vaxfectin® adjuvanted env DNA vaccination disseminated into mucosal tissues, as demonstrated by their presence in saliva, including responses to the V1-V2 region, and rectal fluids. The efficacy of the immune responses was evaluated upon intrarectal challenge with low repeated dose SIVmac251. Although 2 of the 3 vaccinees became infected, these animals showed significantly lower peak virus loads and lower chronic viremia than non-immunized infected controls. Thus, Vaxfectin® adjuvanted DNA is a promising vaccine approach for inducing potent immune responses able to control the highly pathogenic SIVmac251.
HIV; Rhesus macaques; SIVmac239; SIVsmE660; V1 and V2 antibodies; adjuvant; antibody; avidity; mucosal immunity; neutralizing antibody; rectal fluid; saliva; systemic immunity
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.
In the RV144 trial, the estimated efficacy of a vaccine regimen against human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) was 31.2%. We performed a case–control analysis to identify antibody and cellular immune correlates of infection risk.
In pilot studies conducted with RV144 blood samples, 17 antibody or cellular assays met prespecified criteria, of which 6 were chosen for primary analysis to determine the roles of T-cell, IgG antibody, and IgA antibody responses in the modulation of infection risk. Assays were performed on samples from 41 vaccinees who became infected and 205 uninfected vaccinees, obtained 2 weeks after final immunization, to evaluate whether immune-response variables predicted HIV-1 infection through 42 months of follow-up.
Of six primary variables, two correlated significantly with infection risk: the binding of IgG antibodies to variable regions 1 and 2 (V1V2) of HIV-1 envelope proteins (Env) correlated inversely with the rate of HIV-1 infection (estimated odds ratio, 0.57 per 1-SD increase; P = 0.02; q = 0.08), and the binding of plasma IgA antibodies to Env correlated directly with the rate of infection (estimated odds ratio, 1.54 per 1-SD increase; P = 0.03; q = 0.08). Neither low levels of V1V2 antibodies nor high levels of Env-specific IgA antibodies were associated with higher rates of infection than were found in the placebo group. Secondary analyses suggested that Env-specific IgA antibodies may mitigate the effects of potentially protective antibodies.
This immune-correlates study generated the hypotheses that V1V2 antibodies may have contributed to protection against HIV-1 infection, whereas high levels of Env-specific IgA antibodies may have mitigated the effects of protective antibodies. Vaccines that are designed to induce higher levels of V1V2 antibodies and lower levels of Env-specific IgA antibodies than are induced by the RV144 vaccine may have improved efficacy against HIV-1 infection.
The potential role of antibodies in protection against intra-subtype HIV-1 superinfection remains to be understood. We compared the early neutralizing antibody (NAb) responses in three individuals, who were superinfected within one year of primary infection, to ten matched non-superinfected controls from a Zambian cohort of subtype C transmission cases. Sequence analysis of single genome amplified full-length envs from a previous study showed limited diversification in the individuals who became superinfected with the same HIV-1 subtype within year one post-seroconversion. We hypothesized that this reflected a blunted NAb response, which may have made these individuals more susceptible to superinfection.
Neutralization assays showed that autologous plasma NAb responses to the earliest, and in some cases transmitted/founder, virus were delayed and had low to undetectable titers in all three superinfected individuals prior to superinfection. In contrast, NAbs with a median IC50 titer of 1896 were detected as early as three months post-seroconversion in non-superinfected controls. Early plasma NAbs in all subjects showed limited but variable levels of heterologous neutralization breadth. Superinfected individuals also exhibited a trend toward lower levels of gp120- and V1V2-specific IgG binding antibodies but higher gp120-specific plasma IgA binding antibodies.
These data suggest that the lack of development of IgG antibodies, as reflected in autologous NAbs as well as gp120 and V1V2 binding antibodies to the primary infection virus, combined with potentially competing, non-protective IgA antibodies, may increase susceptibility to superinfection in the context of settings where a single HIV-1 subtype predominates.
HIV-1 superinfection; Subtype C; Neutralizing antibodies; HIV-1 transmission; HIV-1 dual infection
A series of potently neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) that target quaternary epitopes on the native Env trimer have recently been described. A common feature shared by these antibodies is the critical involvement of sites in both the V2 and V3 variable domains in antibody recognition. In this study the gp120 variable-region determinants were mapped for eight rhesus macaque monoclonal antibodies (RhMAbs) possessing potently neutralizing activity specific for a quaternary target in SF162 Env and compared to those originally identified for human MAb 2909. These studies showed that determinants for the epitopes defined by the RhMAbs differed in both the V2 (positions 160, 167, and 169) and V3 (positions 313 and 315) regions from 2909, and in a number of cases, from each other. Attempts to reconstitute expression of these epitopes on the cell surface by cotransfecting Envs containing either the V2 or the V3 determinant of the epitope were not successful, suggesting that these epitopes were expressed on individual protomers in a trimer-dependent manner. Several of the V2 positions found to be critical for expression of these quaternary epitopes also significantly affected exposure and neutralization sensitivity of targets in the V3 and CD4-binding domains. These results demonstrated a considerable diversity in the fine structure of this class of epitopes and further suggested a potentially important relationship between the expression of such quaternary epitopes and V1/V2-mediated masking of immunodominant epitopes.
The targets of broadly cross-neutralizing (BCN) antibodies are of great interest in the HIV vaccine field. We have identified a subtype C HIV-1-superinfected individual, CAP256, with high-level BCN activity, and characterized the antibody specificity mediating breadth. CAP256 developed potent BCN activity peaking at 3 years postinfection, neutralizing 32 (76%) of 42 heterologous viruses, with titers of antibodies against some viruses exceeding 1:10,000. CAP256 showed a subtype bias, preferentially neutralizing subtype C and A viruses over subtype B viruses. CAP256 BCN serum targeted a quaternary epitope which included the V1V2 region. Further mapping identified residues F159, N160, L165, R166, D167, K169, and K171 (forming the FN/LRD-K-K motif) in the V2 region as crucial to the CAP256 epitope. However, the fine specificity of the BCN response varied over time and, while consistently dependent on R166 and K169, became gradually less dependent on D167 and K171, possibly contributing to the incremental increase in breadth over 4 years. The presence of an intact FN/LRD-K-K motif in heterologous viruses was associated with sensitivity, although the length of the adjacent V1 loop modulated the degree of sensitivity, with a shorter V1 region significantly associated with higher titers. Repair of the FN/LRD-K-K motif in resistant heterologous viruses conferred sensitivity, with titers sometimes exceeding 1:10,000. Comparison of the CAP256 epitope with that of the PG9/PG16 monoclonal antibodies suggested that these epitopes overlapped, adding to the mounting evidence that this may represent a common neutralization target that should be further investigated as a potential vaccine candidate.
V3 loop is a major neutralizing determinant of the HIV-1 gp120. Using 3D structures of cholera toxin B subunit (CTB), complete V3 in the gp120 context and V3 bound to a monoclonal antibody (mAb) we designed two V3-scaffold immunogen constructs (V3-CTB). The full-length V3-CTB presenting the complete V3 in a structural context mimicking gp120, was recognized by the large majority of our panel of 24 mAbs. The short V3-CTB presenting a V3 fragment in the conformation observed in the complex with the 447-52D Fab, exhibited high affinity binding to this mAb. The immunogens were evaluated in rabbits using DNA-prime/protein-boost protocol. Boosting with the full-length V3-CTB induced high anti-V3 titers in sera that potently neutralize multiple HIV virus strains. The short V3-CTB was ineffective. The results suggest that very narrow antigenic profile of an immunogen is associated with poor Ab response. An immunogen with broader antigenic activity elicits robust Ab response.
Immunogen design; HIV-1; gp120; v3 loop; cholera toxin B subunit; neutralizing antibody; 447-52D; HIV vaccine
Identifying the earliest neutralizing antibody specificities that are elicited following infection or vaccination by HIV-1 is an important objective of current HIV/AIDS vaccine research. We have shown previously that transplantation of HIV-1 V3 epitopes into an HIV-2 envelope (Env) scaffold provides a sensitive and specific means to detect and quantify HIV-1 V3 epitope specific neutralizing antibodies (Nabs) in human sera. Here, we employ this HIV-2/HIV-1 V3 scaffolding strategy to study the kinetics of development and breadth of V3-specific Nabs in longitudinal sera from individuals acutely infected with clade C or clade B HIV-1 and in human subjects immunized with clade B HIV-1 immunogens. HIV-2/HIV-1 chimeras containing V3 sequences matched to virus type (HIV-2 or HIV-1), subtype (clade B or C), or strain (autologous or heterologous) were used as test reagents. We found that by 3–8 weeks post infection, 12 of 14 clade C subjects had a median IC50 V3-specific Nab titer of 1:700 against chimeric viruses containing a heterologous clade C V3. By 5 months post-infection, all 14 subjects were positive for V3-specific Nabs with median titers of 1:8000 against heterologous clade C V3 and 1:1300 against clade B V3. Two acutely infected clade B patients developed heterologous clade B V3-specific Nabs at titers of 1:300 and 1:1800 by 13 weeks of infection and 1:5000 and 1:11000 by 7 months of infection. Titers were not different against chimeras containing autologous clade B V3 sequences. Each of 10 uninfected normal human volunteers who were immunized with clade B HIV-1 Env immunogens, but none of five sham immunized control subjects, developed V3-specific Nabs titers as high as 1:3000 (median 1:1300; range 1:700-1:3000). None of the HIV-1 infected or vaccinated subjects had antibodies that neutralized primary HIV-1 virus strains. These results indicate that high-titer, broadly reactive V3-specific antibodies are among the first to be elicited during acute and early HIV-1 infection and following vaccination but that these antibodies lack neutralizing potency against primary HIV-1 viruses, which effectively shield V3 from antibody binding to the functional Env trimer.
Epitopes, also known as antigenic determinants, are small clusters of specific atoms within macromolecules that are recognized by the immune system. Such epitopes can be targeted with vaccines designed to protect against specific pathogens. The third variable loop (V3 loop) of the HIV-1 pathogen's gp120 surface envelope glycoprotein can be a highly sensitive neutralization target. We derived sequence motifs for the V3 loop epitopes recognized by the human monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) 447-52D and 2219. Searching the HIV database for the occurrence of each epitope motif in worldwide viruses and correcting the results based on published WHO epidemiology reveal that the 447-52D epitope we defined occurs in 13% of viruses infecting patients worldwide: 79% of subtype B viruses, 1% of subtype C viruses, and 7% of subtype A/AG sequences. In contrast, the epitope we characterized for human anti-V3 mAb 2219 is present in 30% of worldwide isolates but is evenly distributed across the known HIV-1 subtypes: 48% of subtype B strains, 40% of subtype C, and 18% of subtype A/AG. Various assays confirmed that the epitopes corresponding to these motifs, when expressed in the SF162 Env backbone, were sensitively and specifically neutralized by the respective mAbs. The method described here is capable of accurately determining the worldwide occurrence and subtype distribution of any crystallographically resolved HIV-1 epitope recognized by a neutralizing antibody, which could be useful for multivalent vaccine design. More importantly, these calculations demonstrate that globally relevant, structurally conserved epitopes are present in the sequence variable V3 loop.
Human anti-V3 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) generated from HIV-1 infected individuals display diversity in the range of their cross-neutralization that may be related to their immunogenetic background. The study of the immunoglobulin (Ig) variable region gene usage of heavy chains have shown a preferential usage of the VH5-51 gene segment which was detected in 35% of 51 human anti-V3 mAbs. In contrast, human mAbs against other envelope regions of HIV-1 (anti-Env), including the CD4-binding domain, the CD4-induced epitope, and gp41 preferentially used the VH1-69 gene segment, and none of them used the VH5-51 gene. Furthermore, the usage of the VH4 family by anti-V3 mAbs was restricted to only one gene segment, VH4-59, while the VH3 gene family was used at a significantly lower frequency by all of the analyzed anti-HIV-1 mAbs. Multivariate analysis showed that usage of VH gene segments was significantly different between anti-V3 and anti-Env mAbs, and compared to antibodies from healthy subjects. In addition, the anti-V3 mAbs preferentially used the JH3 and D2-15 gene segments. The preferential usage of selected Ig gene segments and the characteristic pattern of Ig gene usage by anti-V3 mAbs can be related to the conserved structure of the V3 region.
Immunoglobulin gene usage; human monoclonal antibodies; anti-HIV-1 antibodies
One aim for an HIV vaccine is to elicit neutralizing antibodies (Nab) that can limit replication of genetically diverse viruses and prevent establishment of a new infection. Thus, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of Nab during the early stages of natural infection could prove useful in achieving this goal. Here we demonstrate that viral escape readily occurred despite the development of high titer autologous Nab in two subjects with acute/early subtype C infection. To provide a detailed portrayal of the escape pathways, Nab resistant variants identified at multiple time points were used to create a series of envelope (Env) glycoprotein chimeras and mutants within the background of a corresponding newly transmitted Env. In one subject, Nab escape was driven predominantly by changes in the region of gp120 that extends from the beginning of the V3 domain to the end of the V5 domain (V3V5). However, Nab escape pathways in this subject oscillated and at times required cooperation between V1V2 and the gp41 ectodomain. In the second subject, escape was driven by changes in V1V2. This V1V2-dependent escape pathway was retained over time, and its utility was reflected in the virus's ability to escape from two distinct monoclonal antibodies (Mabs) derived from this same patient via introduction of a single potential N-linked glycosylation site in V2. Spatial representation of the sequence changes in gp120 suggested that selective pressure acted upon the same regions of Env in these two subjects, even though the Env domains that drove escape were different. Together the findings argue that a single mutational pathway is not sufficient to confer escape in early subtype C HIV-1 infection, and support a model in which multiple strategies, including potential glycan shifts, direct alteration of an epitope sequence, and cooperative Env domain conformational masking, are used to evade neutralization.
A significant obstacle to developing an HIV vaccine is the potential for the virus to escape from the immune response induced by immunization. We previously showed that subjects in a Zambian cohort developed potent neutralizing antibody responses shortly after becoming infected by subtype C HIV-1, and here we have extended those findings to demonstrate that cycles of viral escape occurred in two of these subjects despite a potent immune response. We investigated the determinants of immune escape, and found that a single common mutational pathway was not sufficient to facilitate viral escape. Instead, we demonstrate that multiple strategies, including potential changes in glycosylation pattern, direct alteration of an epitope sequence, and cooperative envelope interactions, were used independently or together to evade neutralization. We also recovered individual monoclonal antibodies from one of the subjects and found that a single mutation can confer escape from different neutralizing antibody specificities. The studies demonstrate the remarkable flexibility of subtype C HIV-1, and suggest that the envelope glycoproteins are uniquely equipped to adjust to the specific properties of the immune response in each newly infected host.
Studies were performed to induce cross-clade neutralizing antibodies (Abs) by testing various combinations of prime and boost constructs that focus the immune response on structurally conserved epitopes in the V3 loop of HIV-1 gp120. Rabbits were immunized with gp120 DNA containing a V3 loop characterized by the GPGR motif at its tip, and/or with gp120 DNA with a V3 loop carrying the GPGQ motif. Priming was followed by boosts with a V3-fusion proteins (V3-FPs) carrying the V3 sequence from a subtype B virus (GPGR motif), and/or with V3 sequences from subtypes A and C (GPGQ motif). The broadest and most consistent neutralizing responses were generated when using a clade C gp120 DNA prime and with the V3B-FP boost. Immune sera displayed neutralizing activity in three assays against pseudoviruses and primary isolates from subtypes A, AG, B, C, and D. Polyclonal Abs in the immune rabbit sera neutralized viruses that were not neutralized by pools of human anti-V3 monoclonal Abs. Greater than 80% of the neutralizing Abs were specific for V3, showing that the immune response could be focused on a neutralizing epitope and that vaccine-induced anti-V3 Abs have cross-clade neutralizing activity.
HIV-1; Vaccine; Neutralizing antibodies; V3 loop; gp120; Pseudovirus; Immunization
Deciphering antibody specificities that constrain human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) envelope (Env) diversity, limit virus replication, and contribute to neutralization breadth and potency is an important goal of current HIV/AIDS vaccine research. Transplantation of discrete HIV-1 neutralizing epitopes into HIV-2 scaffolds may provide a sensitive, biologically functional context by which to quantify specific antibody reactivities even in complex sera. Here, we describe a novel HIV-2 proviral scaffold (pHIV-2KR.X7) into which we substituted the complete variable region 3 (V3) of the env gene of HIV-1YU2 or HIV-1Ccon to yield the chimeric proviruses pHIV-2KR.X7 YU2 V3 and pHIV-2KR.X7 Ccon V3. These HIV-2/HIV-1 chimeras were replication competent and sensitive to selective pharmacological inhibitors of virus entry. V3 chimeric viruses were resistant to neutralization by HIV-1 monoclonal antibodies directed against the CD4 binding site, coreceptor binding site, and gp41 membrane proximal external region but exhibited striking sensitivity to HIV-1 V3-specific monoclonal antibodies, 447-52D and F425 B4e8 (50% inhibitory concentration of [IC50] <0.005 μg/ml for each). Plasma specimens from 11 HIV-1 clade B- and 10 HIV-1 clade C-infected subjects showed no neutralizing activity against HIV-2 but exhibited high-titer V3-specific neutralization against both HIV-2/HIV-1 V3 chimeras with IC50 measurements ranging from 1:50 to greater than 1:40,000. Neutralization titers of B clade plasmas were as much as 1,000-fold lower when tested against the primary HIV-1YU2 virus than with the HIV-2KR.X7 YU2 V3 chimera, demonstrating highly effective shielding of V3 epitopes in the native Env trimer. This finding was replicated using a second primary HIV-1 strain (HIV-1BORI) and the corresponding HIV-2KR.X7 BORI V3 chimera. We conclude that V3 is highly immunogenic in vivo, eliciting antibodies with substantial breadth of reactivity and neutralizing potential. These antibodies constrain HIV-1 Env to a structure(s) in which V3 epitopes are concealed prior to CD4 engagement but do not otherwise contribute to neutralization breadth and potency against most primary virus strains. Triggering of the viral spike to reveal V3 epitopes may be required if V3 immunogens are to be components of an effective HIV-1 vaccine.
The majority of global human immunodeficiency virus infections are caused by viruses characterized by a GPGQ motif at the tip of the V3 loop. Characterization of anti-V3 monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) that neutralize isolates with the GPGQ V3 motif is an important step in designing vaccines that will induce such Abs. Consequently, seven human anti-V3 MAbs derived from the cells of individuals infected with non-B-subtype viruses (anti-V3non-B MAbs) were generated from the cells of individuals from Africa infected with circulating recombinant forms CRF02_AG, CRF09_cpx, and CRF13_cpx, each of which contains a subtype A env gene. Sequence analysis of plasma viruses revealed a GPGQ motif at the apex of the V3 loop from six of the seven subjects and a GPGR motif from one subject. The MAbs were selected with fusion proteins (FP) containing V392UG037.8 or V3JR-CSF from subtype A or B, respectively. In virus binding assays, five of the seven (71%) anti-V3non-B MAbs bound to V3-FPs from both subtype A and subtype B, while only four of the nine (44%) anti-V3B MAbs recognized both V3-FPs. Using two neutralization assays, both the anti-V3non-B and the anti-V3B MAbs neutralized subtype B viruses with similar activities, while the anti-V3non-B MAbs exhibited a tendency toward both increased potency and breadth of neutralization against non-B viruses compared to anti-V3B MAbs. Statistical significance was not achieved, due in large measure to the sizes of the MAb panels, but the overall pattern of data strongly suggests that viruses with the GPGQ motif at the tip of the V3 loop induce anti-V3 Abs with broader cross-neutralizing activity than do viruses with the GPGR motif.
The neutralizing activities of anti-V3 antibodies for HIV-1 isolates is affected both by sequence variation within V3 and by epitope masking by the V1/V2 domain. To analyze the relative contribution of V3 sequence variation, chimeric Env genes that contained consensus V3 sequences from seven HIV-1 subtypes in the neutralization-sensitive SF162 Env backbone were constructed. Resulting viral pseudotypes were tested for neutralization by 15 anti-V3 MAbs isolated from humans infected with viruses of either subtype B (anti-V3B MAbs) or subtype A (anti-V3A MAbs). Pseudovirions with the subtype B consensus V3 sequence were potently neutralized (IC50 < 0.006 μg/ml) by all but one of these MAbs, while pseudovirions with V3 subtypes A, C, F, H, AG, and AE were generally neutralized more effectively by anti-V3A MAbs than by anti-V3B MAbs. A V1/V2-masked Env version of SF162 Env with the consensus B V3 sequence was also neutralized by these MAbs, although with considerably lower potency, while similarly masked chimeras with V3 sequences of subtype A, C, or AG were weakly neutralized by anti-V3A MAbs but not by anti-V3B MAbs. Mutations in the V1/V2 domain of YU-2 Env increased the sensitivity of this highly resistant Env to a pool of anti-V3B MAbs several thousand-fold. These results demonstrated (i) the exceptional sensitivity of representative V3 domains of multiple subtypes to neutralization in the absence of epitope masking, (ii) the broader neutralizing activity of anti-V3A MAbs for viruses containing diverse V3 sequences, and (iii) the generality and dominant effect of V1/V2 masking on restriction of V3-mediated neutralization.
A role for the C-terminal domain (CTD) of murine leukemia virus (MuLV) Env protein in viral fusion was indicated by the potent inhibition of MuLV-induced fusion, but not receptor binding, by two rat monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) specific for epitopes in the CTD. Although these two MAbs, 35/56 and 83A25, have very different patterns of reactivity with viral isolates, determinants of both epitopes were mapped to the last C-terminal disulfide-bonded loop of SU (loop 10), and residues in this loop responsible for the different specificities of these MAbs were identified. Both MAbs reacted with a minor fraction of a truncated SU fragment terminating four residues after loop 10, indicating that while the deleted C-terminal residues were not part of these epitopes, they promoted their formation. Neither MAb recognized the loop 10 region expressed in isolated form, suggesting that these epitopes were not completely localized within loop 10 but required additional sequences located N terminal to the loop. Direct support for a role for loop 10 in fusion was provided by the demonstration that Env mutants containing an extra serine or threonine residue between the second and third positions of the loop were highly attenuated for infectivity and defective in fusion assays, despite wild-type levels of expression, processing, and receptor binding. Other mutations at positions 1 to 3 of loop 10 inhibited processing of the gPr80 precursor protein or led to increased shedding of SU, suggesting that loop 10 also affects Env folding and the stability of the interaction between SU and TM.