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1.  Antibody-Mediated Internalization of Infectious HIV-1 Virions Differs among Antibody Isotypes and Subclasses 
PLoS Pathogens  2016;12(8):e1005817.
Emerging data support a role for antibody Fc-mediated antiviral activity in vaccine efficacy and in the control of HIV-1 replication by broadly neutralizing antibodies. Antibody-mediated virus internalization is an Fc-mediated function that may act at the portal of entry whereby effector cells may be triggered by pre-existing antibodies to prevent HIV-1 acquisition. Understanding the capacity of HIV-1 antibodies in mediating internalization of HIV-1 virions by primary monocytes is critical to understanding their full antiviral potency. Antibody isotypes/subclasses differ in functional profile, with consequences for their antiviral activity. For instance, in the RV144 vaccine trial that achieved partial efficacy, Env IgA correlated with increased risk of HIV-1 infection (i.e. decreased vaccine efficacy), whereas V1-V2 IgG3 correlated with decreased risk of HIV-1 infection (i.e. increased vaccine efficacy). Thus, understanding the different functional attributes of HIV-1 specific IgG1, IgG3 and IgA antibodies will help define the mechanisms of immune protection. Here, we utilized an in vitro flow cytometric method utilizing primary monocytes as phagocytes and infectious HIV-1 virions as targets to determine the capacity of Env IgA (IgA1, IgA2), IgG1 and IgG3 antibodies to mediate HIV-1 infectious virion internalization. Importantly, both broadly neutralizing antibodies (i.e. PG9, 2G12, CH31, VRC01 IgG) and non-broadly neutralizing antibodies (i.e. 7B2 mAb, mucosal HIV-1+ IgG) mediated internalization of HIV-1 virions. Furthermore, we found that Env IgG3 of multiple specificities (i.e. CD4bs, V1-V2 and gp41) mediated increased infectious virion internalization over Env IgG1 of the same specificity, while Env IgA mediated decreased infectious virion internalization compared to IgG1. These data demonstrate that antibody-mediated internalization of HIV-1 virions depends on antibody specificity and isotype. Evaluation of the phagocytic potency of vaccine-induced antibodies and therapeutic antibodies will enable a better understanding of their capacity to prevent and/or control HIV-1 infection in vivo.
Author Summary
Emerging data highlight the role of antibody Fc effector functions as immunological mechanisms involved in vaccine and passive immunotherapy efficacy. One such Fc effector function is antibody-mediated virion internalization, where antibodies recognize a virus and engage Fc receptors on phagocytes, causing them to internalize the virus. Although potentially critical for protection from HIV-1 acquisition, the ability of HIV-1 specific antibodies to mediate virion internalization of infectious HIV-1 particles is unknown. We demonstrate that antibodies with different paratopes, isotypes and subclasses mediate HIV-1 virion internalization, using novel HIV-1 internalization assays. Env IgG3 mediated greater virion internalization activity than IgG1, followed by IgA1 and IgA2. Given that Env IgG3 correlated with decreased risk of HIV-1 infection in the one partially efficacious HIV-1 vaccine trial to date (RV144), determining the underlying antiviral mechanisms is critical for improving HIV-1 prevention strategies. Our study provides direct evidence of a new antiviral mechanism against HIV-1 infection, IgG3 mediated virion internalization, and raises the hypothesis that a mechanism of protection mediated by IgG3 could be this improved Fc-mediated antiviral function. These findings have important implications for harnessing antibody effector functions for HIV-1 vaccine design, HIV-1 cure and passive immunotherapy for HIV-1 clearance at the portal of entry.
PMCID: PMC5007037  PMID: 27579713
2.  Reversible reprogramming of circulating memory Tfh cell function during chronic HIV infection 
Despite the overwhelming benefits of antiretroviral therapy (ART) in curtailing viral load in HIV infected individuals, ART does not fully restore cellular and humoral immunity. HIV infected individuals under ART show reduced responses to vaccination and infections and are unable to mount an effective anti-viral immune response upon ART cessation. There are many factors that contribute to these defects including persistent inflammation, especially in lymphoid tissues, where T follicular helper (Tfh) cells instruct and help B cells launch an effective humoral immune response. In this study we investigated the phenotype and function of circulating memory Tfh cells as a surrogate of Tfh cells in lymph nodes and found significant impairment of this cell population in chronically HIV infected individuals leading to reduced B cell responses. We further show that these aberrant memory Tfh cells exhibit an IL-2 responsive gene signature and are more polarized towards a Th1 phenotype. Treatment of functional memory Tfh cells with IL-2 was able to recapitulate the detrimental reprogramming. Importantly, this defect was reversible, as interfering with the IL-2 signaling pathway helped reverse the abnormal differentiation and improved antibody responses. Thus, reversible reprogramming of memory Tfh cells in HIV infected individuals could be utilized to enhance antibody responses. Altered microenvironmental conditions in lymphoid tissues leading to altered Tfh cell differentiation could provide one explanation for the poor responsiveness of HIV infected individuals to new antigens. This has important implications for the development of therapeutic interventions to enhance HIV- and vaccine-mediated antibody responses in patients under ART.
PMCID: PMC4670798  PMID: 26546609
3.  Tissue memory B cell repertoire analysis after ALVAC/AIDSVAX B/E gp120 immunization of rhesus macaques 
JCI Insight  null;1(20):e88522.
The ALVAC prime/ALVAC + AIDSVAX B/E boost RV144 vaccine trial induced an estimated 31% efficacy in a low-risk cohort where HIV‑1 exposures were likely at mucosal surfaces. An immune correlates study demonstrated that antibodies targeting the V2 region and in a secondary analysis antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC), in the presence of low envelope-specific (Env-specific) IgA, correlated with decreased risk of infection. Thus, understanding the B cell repertoires induced by this vaccine in systemic and mucosal compartments are key to understanding the potential protective mechanisms of this vaccine regimen. We immunized rhesus macaques with the ALVAC/AIDSVAX B/E gp120 vaccine regimen given in RV144, and then gave a boost 6 months later, after which the animals were necropsied. We isolated systemic and intestinal vaccine Env-specific memory B cells. Whereas Env-specific B cell clonal lineages were shared between spleen, draining inguinal, anterior pelvic, posterior pelvic, and periaortic lymph nodes, members of Env‑specific B cell clonal lineages were absent in the terminal ileum. Env‑specific antibodies were detectable in rectal fluids, suggesting that IgG antibodies present at mucosal sites were likely systemically produced and transported to intestinal mucosal sites.
The RV144 HIV prime-boost vaccination regimen in macaques demonstrates that vaccine-specific B cell clonal lineages are absent in terminal ileum.
PMCID: PMC5135278  PMID: 27942585
4.  Sequential Immunization with gp140 Boosts Immune Responses Primed by Modified Vaccinia Ankara or DNA in HIV-Uninfected South African Participants 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(9):e0161753.
The safety and immunogenicity of SAAVI DNA-C2 (4 mg IM), SAAVI MVA-C (2.9 x 109 pfu IM) and Novartis V2-deleted subtype C gp140 (100 mcg) with MF59 adjuvant in various vaccination regimens was evaluated in HIV-uninfected adults in South Africa.
Participants at three South African sites were randomized (1:1:1:1) to one of four vaccine regimens: MVA prime, sequential gp140 protein boost (M/M/P/P); concurrent MVA/gp140 (MP/MP); DNA prime, sequential MVA boost (D/D/M/M); DNA prime, concurrent MVA/gp140 boost (D/D/MP/MP) or placebo. Peak HIV specific humoral and cellular responses were measured.
184 participants were enrolled: 52% were female, all were Black/African, median age was 23 years (range, 18–42 years) and 79% completed all vaccinations. 159 participants reported at least one adverse event, 92.5% were mild or moderate. Five, unrelated, serious adverse events were reported. The M/M/P/P and D/D/MP/MP regimens induced the strongest peak neutralizing and binding antibody responses and the greatest CD4+ T-cell responses to Env. All peak neutralizing and binding antibody responses decayed with time. The MVA, but not DNA, prime contributed to the humoral and cellular immune responses. The D/D/M/M regimen was poorly immunogenic overall but did induce modest CD4+ T-cell responses to Gag and Pol. CD8+ T-cell responses to any antigen were low for all regimens.
The SAAVI DNA-C2, SAAVI MVA-C and Novartis gp140 with MF59 adjuvant in various combinations were safe and induced neutralizing and binding antibodies and cellular immune responses. Sequential immunization with gp140 boosted immune responses primed by MVA or DNA. The best overall immune responses were seen with the M/M/P/P regimen.
Trial Registration NCT01418235
PMCID: PMC5008759  PMID: 27583368
6.  Combined HIV-1 Envelope Systemic and Mucosal Immunization of Lactating Rhesus Monkeys Induces a Robust Immunoglobulin A Isotype B Cell Response in Breast Milk 
Journal of Virology  2016;90(10):4951-4965.
Maternal vaccination to induce anti-HIV immune factors in breast milk is a potential intervention to prevent postnatal HIV-1 mother-to-child transmission (MTCT). We previously demonstrated that immunization of lactating rhesus monkeys with a modified vaccinia Ankara (MVA) prime/intramuscular (i.m.) protein boost regimen induced functional IgG responses in milk, while MVA prime/intranasal (i.n.) boost induced robust milk Env-specific IgA responses. Yet, recent studies have suggested that prevention of postnatal MTCT may require both Env-specific IgA and functional IgG responses in milk. Thus, to investigate whether both responses could be elicited by a combined systemic/mucosal immunization strategy, animals previously immunized with the MVA prime/i.n. boost regimen received an i.n./i.m. combined C.1086 gp120 boost. Remarkably, high-magnitude Env-specific IgA responses were observed in milk, surpassing those in plasma. Furthermore, 29% of vaccine-elicited Env-specific B cells isolated from breast milk were IgA isotype, in stark contrast to the overwhelming predominance of IgG isotype Env-specific B cells in breast milk of chronically HIV-infected women. A clonal relationship was identified between Env-specific blood and breast milk B cells, suggesting trafficking of that cell population between the two compartments. Furthermore, IgA and IgG monoclonal antibodies isolated from Env-specific breast milk B cells demonstrated diverse Env epitope specificities and multiple effector functions, including tier 1 neutralization, antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC), infected cell binding, and inhibition of viral attachment to epithelial cells. Thus, maternal i.n./i.m. combined immunization is a novel strategy to enhance protective Env-specific IgA in milk, which is subsequently transferred to the infant via breastfeeding.
IMPORTANCE Efforts to increase the availability of antiretroviral therapy to pregnant and breastfeeding women in resource-limited areas have proven remarkably successful at reducing HIV vertical transmission rates. However, more than 200,000 children are infected annually due to failures in therapy implementation, monitoring, and adherence, nearly half by postnatal HIV exposure via maternal breast milk. Intriguingly, in the absence of antiretroviral therapy, only 10% of breastfed infants born to HIV-infected mothers acquire the virus, suggesting the existence of naturally protective immune factors in milk. Enhancement of these protective immune factors through maternal vaccination will be a critical strategy to reduce the global pediatric AIDS epidemic. We have previously demonstrated that a high magnitude of HIV Env-specific IgA in milk correlates with reduced risk of infant HIV acquisition. In this study, we describe a novel HIV vaccine regimen that induces potent IgA responses in milk and therefore could potentially protect against breast milk HIV MTCT.
PMCID: PMC4859715  PMID: 26937027
7.  Potential To Streamline Heterologous DNA Prime and NYVAC/Protein Boost HIV Vaccine Regimens in Rhesus Macaques by Employing Improved Antigens 
Journal of Virology  2016;90(8):4133-4149.
In a follow-up to the modest efficacy observed in the RV144 trial, researchers in the HIV vaccine field seek to substantiate and extend the results by evaluating other poxvirus vectors and combinations with DNA and protein vaccines. Earlier clinical trials (EuroVacc trials 01 to 03) evaluated the immunogenicity of HIV-1 clade C GagPolNef and gp120 antigens delivered via the poxviral vector NYVAC. These showed that a vaccination regimen including DNA-C priming prior to a NYVAC-C boost considerably enhanced vaccine-elicited immune responses compared to those with NYVAC-C alone. Moreover, responses were improved by using three as opposed to two DNA-C primes. In the present study, we assessed in nonhuman primates whether such vaccination regimens can be streamlined further by using fewer and accelerated immunizations and employing a novel generation of improved DNA-C and NYVAC-C vaccine candidates designed for higher expression levels and more balanced immune responses. Three different DNA-C prime/NYVAC-C+ protein boost vaccination regimens were tested in rhesus macaques. All regimens elicited vigorous and well-balanced CD8+ and CD4+ T cell responses that were broad and polyfunctional. Very high IgG binding titers, substantial antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC), and modest antibody-dependent cell-mediated virus inhibition (ADCVI), but very low neutralization activity, were measured after the final immunizations. Overall, immune responses elicited in all three groups were very similar and of greater magnitude, breadth, and quality than those of earlier EuroVacc vaccines. In conclusion, these findings indicate that vaccination schemes can be simplified by using improved antigens and regimens. This may offer a more practical and affordable means to elicit potentially protective immune responses upon vaccination, especially in resource-constrained settings.
IMPORTANCE Within the EuroVacc clinical trials, we previously assessed the immunogenicity of HIV clade C antigens delivered in a DNA prime/NYVAC boost regimen. The trials showed that the DNA prime crucially improved the responses, and three DNA primes with a NYVAC boost appeared to be optimal. Nevertheless, T cell responses were primarily directed toward Env, and humoral responses were modest. The aim of this study was to assess improved antigens for the capacity to elicit more potent and balanced responses in rhesus macaques, even with various simpler immunization regimens. Our results showed that the novel antigens in fact elicited larger numbers of T cells with a polyfunctional profile and a good Env-GagPolNef balance, as well as high-titer and Fc-functional antibody responses. Finally, comparison of the different schedules indicates that a simpler regimen of only two DNA primes and one NYVAC boost in combination with protein may be very efficient, thus showing that the novel antigens allow for easier immunization protocols.
PMCID: PMC4810551  PMID: 26865719
8.  Strain-specific V3 and CD4 binding site autologous HIV-1 neutralizing antibodies select neutralization-resistant viruses 
Cell host & microbe  2015;18(3):354-362.
The third variable (V3) loop and the CD4 binding site (CD4bs) of the HIV-1 envelope are frequently targeted by neutralizing antibodies (nAbs) in infected individuals. In chronic infection, HIV-1 escape mutants repopulate the plasma, and V3 and CD4bs nAbs emerge that can neutralize heterologous tier 1 easy-to-neutralize, but not tier 2 difficult-to-neutralize HIV-1 isolates. However, neutralization sensitivity of autologous plasma viruses to this type of nAb response has not been studied. We describe the development and evolution in vivo of antibodies distinguished by their target specificity for V3and CD4bs epitopes on autologous tier 2 viruses but not on heterologous tier 2 viruses. A surprisingly high fraction of autologous circulating viruses was sensitive to these antibodies. These findings demonstrate a role for V3 and CD4bs antibodies in constraining the native envelope trimer in vivo to a neutralization-resistant phenotype, explaining why HIV-1 transmission generally occurs by tier 2 neutralization-resistant viruses.
PMCID: PMC4567706  PMID: 26355218
9.  Boosting of ALVAC-SIV Vaccine-Primed Macaques with the CD4-SIVgp120 Fusion Protein Elicits Antibodies to V2 Associated with a Decreased Risk of SIVmac251 Acquisition 
The recombinant ALVAC vaccine coupled with the monomeric gp120/alum protein have decreased the risk of HIV and SIV acquisition. Ab responses to the V1/V2 regions have correlated with a decreased risk of virus acquisition in both humans and macaques. We hypothesized that the breadth and functional profile of Abs induced by an ALVAC/envelope protein regimen could be improved by substituting the monomeric gp120 boost, with the full-length single-chain (FLSC) protein. FLSC is a CD4-gp120 fusion immunogen that exposes cryptic gp120 epitopes to the immune system. We compared the immunogenicity and relative efficiency of an ALVAC-SIV vaccine boosted either with bivalent FLSC proteins or with monomeric gp120 in alum. FLSC was superior to monomeric gp120 in directing Abs to the C3 α2 helix, the V5 loop, and the V3 region that contains the putative CCR5 binding site. In addition, FLSC boosting elicited significantly higher binding Abs to V2 and increased both the Ab-dependent cellular cytotoxicity activity and the breadth of neutralizing Abs. However, the FLSC vaccine regimen demonstrated only a trend in vaccine efficacy, whereas the monomeric gp120 regimen significantly decreased the risk of SIVmac251 acquisition. In both vaccine regimens, anti-V2 Abs correlated with a decreased risk of virus acquisition but differed with regard to systemic or mucosal origin. In the FLSC regimen, serum Abs to V2 correlated, whereas in the monomeric gp120 regimen, V2 Abs in rectal secretions, the site of viral challenge, were associated with efficacy.
PMCID: PMC5026031  PMID: 27591322
10.  Initiation of immune tolerance–controlled HIV gp41 neutralizing B cell lineages 
Science translational medicine  2016;8(336):336ra62.
Development of an HIV vaccine is a global priority. A major roadblock to a vaccine is an inability to induce protective broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs). HIV gp41 bnAbs have characteristics that predispose them to be controlled by tolerance. We used gp41 2F5 bnAb germline knock-in mice and macaques vaccinated with immunogens reactive with germline precursors to activate neutralizing antibodies. In germline knock-in mice, bnAb precursors were deleted, with remaining anergic B cells capable of being activated by germline-binding immunogens to make gp41-reactive immunoglobulin M (IgM). Immunized macaques made B cell clonal lineages targeted to the 2F5 bnAb epitope, but 2F5-like antibodies were either deleted or did not attain sufficient affinity for gp41-lipid complexes to achieve the neutralization potency of 2F5. Structural analysis of members of a vaccine-induced antibody lineage revealed that heavy chain complementarity-determining region 3 (HCDR3) hydrophobicity was important for neutralization. Thus, gp41 bnAbs are controlled by immune tolerance, requiring vaccination strategies to transiently circumvent tolerance controls.
PMCID: PMC5006673  PMID: 27122615
11.  Lessons from babies: inducing HIV-1 broadly neutralizing antibodies 
Nature medicine  2014;20(6):583-585.
A new study in infants shows that broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) against HIV can be found early in life, demonstrating for the first time that these antibodies can be induced by the infant immune system.
PMCID: PMC4793272  PMID: 24901564
Antibodies; HIV infections
12.  Diversion of HIV-1 Vaccine-induced Immunity by gp41-Microbiota Cross-reactive Antibodies 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2015;349(6249):aab1253.
A HIV-1 DNA prime-recombinant Adenovirus Type 5 (rAd5) boost vaccine failed to protect from HIV-1 acquisition. We studied the nature of the vaccine-induced antibody (Ab) response to HIV-1 envelope (Env). HIV-1-reactive plasma Ab titers were higher to Env gp41 than gp120, and repertoire analysis demonstrated that 93% of HIV-1-reactive Abs from memory B cells was to Env gp41. Vaccine-induced gp41-reactive monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) were non-neutralizing, and frequently polyreactive with host and environmental antigens including intestinal microbiota (IM). Next generation sequencing of an IGHV repertoire prior to vaccination revealed an Env-IM cross-reactive Ab that was clonally-related to a subsequent vaccine-induced gp41-reactive Ab. Thus, HIV-1 Env DNA-rAd5 vaccine induced a dominant IM-polyreactive, non-neutralizing gp41-reactive Ab repertoire response that was associated with no vaccine efficacy.
PMCID: PMC4562404  PMID: 26229114
13.  Vaccine-Induced Linear Epitope-Specific Antibodies to Simian Immunodeficiency Virus SIVmac239 Envelope Are Distinct from Those Induced to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Envelope in Nonhuman Primates 
Journal of Virology  2015;89(16):8643-8650.
To evaluate antibody specificities induced by simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) versus human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) envelope antigens in nonhuman primate (NHP), we profiled binding antibody responses to linear epitopes in NHP studies with HIV-1 or SIV immunogens. We found that, overall, HIV-1 Env IgG responses were dominated by V3, with the notable exception of the responses to the vaccine strain A244 Env that were dominated by V2, whereas the anti-SIVmac239 Env responses were dominated by V2 regardless of the vaccine regimen.
PMCID: PMC4524233  PMID: 26018159
14.  HIV-1 Negative Female Sex Workers Sustain High Cervical IFNε, Low Immune Activation and Low Expression of HIV-1 Required Host Genes 
Mucosal immunology  2015;9(4):1027-1038.
Sex workers within high HIV endemic areas are often a target population where anti-HIV prophylactic strategies are tested. We hypothesize that in women with high levels of genital exposure to semen changes in cervicovaginal mucosal and/or systemic immune activation will contribute to a decreased susceptibility to HIV-1 infection. To address this question, we assessed sexual activity, immune activation status (in peripheral blood), as well as cellular infiltrates and gene expression in ectocervical mucosa biopsies in female sex workers [FSW] (n=50), as compared to control women [CG] (n=32). FSW had low to absent HIV-1 specific immune responses with significantly lower CD38 expression on circulating CD4+ or CD8+ T-Cells (both: p<0.001) together with lower cervical gene expression of genes associated with leukocyte homing and chemotaxis. FSW also had increased levels of Interferon-ε gene and protein expression in the cervical epithelium together with reduced expression of genes associated with HIV-1 integration and replication. A correlative relationship between semen exposure and elevated type-1 IFN expression in FSW was also established. Overall, our data suggest that long-term condomless sex work can result in multiple changes within the cervicovaginal compartment that would contribute to sustaining a lower susceptibility for HIV-1 infection in absence of HIV-specific responses.
PMCID: PMC4864149  PMID: 26555708
15.  Kernel-based logistic regression model for protein sequence without vectorialization 
Biostatistics (Oxford, England)  2014;16(3):480-492.
Protein sequence data arise more and more often in vaccine and infectious disease research. These types of data are discrete, high-dimensional, and complex. We propose to study the impact of protein sequences on binary outcomes using a kernel-based logistic regression model, which models the effect of protein through a random effect whose variance–covariance matrix is mostly determined by a kernel function. We propose a novel, biologically motivated, profile hidden Markov model (HMM)-based mutual information (MI) kernel. Hypothesis testing can be carried out using the maximum of the score statistics and a parametric bootstrap procedure. To improve the power of testing, we propose intuitive modifications to the test statistic. We show through simulation studies that the profile HMM-based MI kernel can be substantially more powerful than competing kernels, and that the modified test statistics bring incremental gains in power. We use these proposed methods to investigate two problems from HIV-1 vaccine research: (1) identifying segments of HIV-1 envelope (Env) protein that confer resistance to neutralizing antibody and (2) identifying segments of Env that are associated with attenuation of protective vaccine effect by antibodies of isotype A in the RV144 vaccine trial.
PMCID: PMC4794618  PMID: 25532524
Davies problem; Kernel methods; Maximum of score statistics
16.  HLA class II genes modulate vaccine-induced antibody responses to affect HIV-1 acquisition 
Science translational medicine  2015;7(296):296ra112.
In the RV144 vaccine trial, two antibody responses were found to correlate with HIV-1 acquisition. Because human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class II–restricted CD4+ T cells are involved in antibody production, we tested whether HLA class II genotypes affected HIV-1–specific antibody levels and HIV-1 acquisition in 760 individuals. Indeed, antibody responses correlated with acquisition only in the presence of single host HLA alleles. Envelope (Env)–specific immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibodies were associated with increased risk of acquisition specifically in individuals with DQB1*06. IgG antibody responses to Env amino acid positions 120 to 204 were higher and were associated with decreased risk of acquisition and increased vaccine efficacy only in the presence of DPB1*13. Screening IgG responses to overlapping peptides spanning Env 120–204 and viral sequence analysis of infected individuals defined differences in vaccine response that were associated with the presence of DPB1*13 and could be responsible for the protection observed. Overall, the underlying genetic findings indicate that HLA class II modulated the quantity, quality, and efficacy of antibody responses in the RV144 trial.
PMCID: PMC4911012  PMID: 26180102
17.  Subtype C gp140 Vaccine Boosts Immune Responses Primed by the South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative DNA-C2 and MVA-C HIV Vaccines after More than a 2-Year Gap 
A phase I safety and immunogenicity study investigated South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative (SAAVI) HIV-1 subtype C (HIV-1C) DNA vaccine encoding Gag-RT-Tat-Nef and gp150, boosted with modified vaccinia Ankara (MVA) expressing matched antigens. Following the finding of partial protective efficacy in the RV144 HIV vaccine efficacy trial, a protein boost with HIV-1 subtype C V2-deleted gp140 with MF59 was added to the regimen. A total of 48 participants (12 U.S. participants and 36 Republic of South Africa [RSA] participants) were randomized to receive 3 intramuscular (i.m.) doses of SAAVI DNA-C2 of 4 mg (months 0, 1, and 2) and 2 i.m. doses of SAAVI MVA-C of 1.45 × 109 PFU (months 4 and 5) (n = 40) or of a placebo (n = 8). Approximately 2 years after vaccination, 27 participants were rerandomized to receive gp140/MF59 at 100 μg or placebo, as 2 i.m. injections, 3 months apart. The vaccine regimen was safe and well tolerated. After the DNA-MVA regimen, CD4+ T-cell and CD8+ T-cell responses occurred in 74% and 32% of the participants, respectively. The protein boost increased CD4+ T-cell responses to 87% of the subjects. All participants developed tier 1 HIV-1C neutralizing antibody responses as well as durable Env binding antibodies that recognized linear V3 and C5 peptides. The HIV-1 subtype C DNA-MVA vaccine regimen showed promising cellular immunogenicity. Boosting with gp140/MF59 enhanced levels of binding and neutralizing antibodies as well as CD4+ T-cell responses to HIV-1 envelope. (This study has been registered at under registration no. NCT00574600 and NCT01423825.)
PMCID: PMC4895009  PMID: 27098021
18.  Head-to-Head Comparison of Poxvirus NYVAC and ALVAC Vectors Expressing Identical HIV-1 Clade C Immunogens in Prime-Boost Combination with Env Protein in Nonhuman Primates 
Journal of Virology  2015;89(16):8525-8539.
We compared the HIV-1-specific cellular and humoral immune responses elicited in rhesus macaques immunized with two poxvirus vectors (NYVAC and ALVAC) expressing the same HIV-1 antigens from clade C, Env gp140 as a trimeric cell-released protein and a Gag-Pol-Nef polyprotein as Gag-induced virus-like particles (VLPs) (referred to as NYVAC-C and ALVAC-C). The immunization protocol consisted of two doses of the corresponding poxvirus vector plus two doses of a combination of the poxvirus vector and a purified HIV-1 gp120 protein from clade C. This immunogenicity profile was also compared to that elicited by vaccine regimens consisting of two doses of the ALVAC vector expressing HIV-1 antigens from clades B/E (ALVAC-vCP1521) plus two doses of a combination of ALVAC-vCP1521 and HIV-1 gp120 protein from clades B/E (similar to the RV144 trial regimen) or clade C. The results showed that immunization of macaques with NYVAC-C stimulated at different times more potent HIV-1-specific CD4+ T-cell responses and induced a trend toward higher-magnitude HIV-1-specific CD8+ T-cell immune responses than did ALVAC-C. Furthermore, NYVAC-C induced a trend toward higher levels of binding IgG antibodies against clade C HIV-1 gp140, gp120, or murine leukemia virus (MuLV) gp70-scaffolded V1/V2 and toward best cross-clade-binding IgG responses against HIV-1 gp140 from clades A, B, and group M consensus, than did ALVAC-C. Of the linear binding IgG responses, most were directed against the V3 loop in all immunization groups. Additionally, NYVAC-C and ALVAC-C also induced similar levels of HIV-1-neutralizing antibodies and antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) responses. Interestingly, binding IgA antibody levels against HIV-1 gp120 or MuLV gp70-scaffolded V1/V2 were absent or very low in all immunization groups. Overall, these results provide a comprehensive survey of the immunogenicity of NYVAC versus ALVAC expressing HIV-1 antigens in nonhuman primates and indicate that NYVAC may represent an alternative candidate to ALVAC in the development of a future HIV-1 vaccine.
IMPORTANCE The finding of a safe and effective HIV/AIDS vaccine immunogen is one of the main research priorities. Here, we generated two poxvirus-based HIV vaccine candidates (NYVAC and ALVAC vectors) expressing the same clade C HIV-1 antigens in separate vectors, and we analyzed in nonhuman primates their immunogenicity profiles. The results showed that immunization with NYVAC-C induced a trend toward higher HIV-1-specific cellular and humoral immune responses than did ALVAC-C, indicating that this new NYVAC vector could be a novel optimized HIV/AIDS vaccine candidate for human clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC4524234  PMID: 26041302
19.  Multiple factors affect immunogenicity of DNA plasmid HIV vaccines in human clinical trials 
Vaccine  2015;33(20):2347-2353.
Plasmid DNA vaccines have been licensed for use in domesticated animals because of their excellent immunogenicity, but none have yet been licensed for use in humans. Here we report a retrospective analysis of 1218 healthy human volunteers enrolled in 10 phase I clinical trials in which DNA plasmids encoding HIV antigens were administered. Elicited T-cell immune responses were quantified by validated intracellular cytokine staining (ICS) stimulated with HIV peptide pools. HIV-specific binding and neutralizing antibody activities were also analyzed using validated assays. Results showed that, in the absence of adjuvants and boosting with alternative vaccines, DNA vaccines elicited CD8+ and CD4+ T-cell responses in an average of 13.3% (95% CI: 9.8% to 17.8%) and 37.7% (95% CI: 31.9% to 43.8%) of vaccine recipients, respectively. Three vaccinations (versus 2) improved the proportion of subjects with antigen-specific CD8+ responses (p=0.02), as did increased DNA dosage (p=0.007). Furthermore, female gender and participants having a lower Body Mass Index were independently associated with higher CD4+ T-cell response rate (p=0.001 and p=0.008, respectively). These vaccines elicited minimal neutralizing and binding antibody responses. These findings of the immunogenicity of HIV DNA vaccines in humans can provide guidance for future clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC4433533  PMID: 25820067
HIV; DNA vaccine; clinical trial; immune response
20.  Comparative Immunogenicity of HIV-1 gp140 Vaccine Delivered by Parenteral, and Mucosal Routes in Female Volunteers; MUCOVAC2, A Randomized Two Centre Study 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(5):e0152038.
Defining optimal routes for induction of mucosal immunity represents an important research priority for the HIV-1 vaccine field. In particular, it remains unclear whether mucosal routes of immunization can improve mucosal immune responses.
In this randomized two center phase I clinical trial we evaluated the systemic and mucosal immune response to a candidate HIV-1 Clade C CN54gp140 envelope glycoprotein vaccine administered by intramuscular (IM), intranasal (IN) and intravaginal (IVAG) routes of administration in HIV negative female volunteers. IM immunizations were co-administered with Glucopyranosyl Lipid Adjuvant (GLA), IN immunizations with 0.5% chitosan and IVAG immunizations were administered in an aqueous gel.
Three IM immunizations of CN54 gp140 at either 20 or 100 μg elicited significantly greater systemic and mucosal antibodies than either IN or IVAG immunizations. Following additional intramuscular boosting we observed an anamnestic antibody response in nasally primed subjects. Modest neutralizing responses were detected against closely matched tier 1 clade C virus in the IM groups. Interestingly, the strongest CD4 T-cell responses were detected after IN and not IM immunization.
These data show that parenteral immunization elicits systemic and mucosal antibodies in women. Interestingly IN immunization was an effective prime for IM boost, while IVAG administration had no detectable impact on systemic or mucosal responses despite IM priming.
Clinical Trials Registration
EudraCT 2010-019103-27 and the UK Clinical Research Network (UKCRN) Number 11679
PMCID: PMC4861263  PMID: 27159166
21.  Association of HIV-1 Envelope-Specific Breast Milk IgA Responses with Reduced Risk of Postnatal Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV-1 
Journal of Virology  2015;89(19):9952-9961.
Infants born to HIV-1-infected mothers in resource-limited areas where replacement feeding is unsafe and impractical are repeatedly exposed to HIV-1 throughout breastfeeding. Despite this, the majority of infants do not contract HIV-1 postnatally, even in the absence of maternal antiretroviral therapy. This suggests that immune factors in breast milk of HIV-1-infected mothers help to limit vertical transmission. We compared the HIV-1 envelope-specific breast milk and plasma antibody responses of clade C HIV-1-infected postnatally transmitting and nontransmitting mothers in the control arm of the Malawi-based Breastfeeding Antiretrovirals and Nutrition Study using multivariable logistic regression modeling. We found no association between milk or plasma neutralization activity, antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity, or HIV-1 envelope-specific IgG responses and postnatal transmission risk. While the envelope-specific breast milk and plasma IgA responses also did not reach significance in predicting postnatal transmission risk in the primary model after correction for multiple comparisons, subsequent exploratory analysis using two distinct assay methodologies demonstrated that the magnitudes of breast milk total and secretory IgA responses against a consensus HIV-1 envelope gp140 (B.con env03) were associated with reduced postnatal transmission risk. These results suggest a protective role for mucosal HIV-1 envelope-specific IgA responses in the context of postnatal virus transmission. This finding supports further investigations into the mechanisms by which mucosal IgA reduces risk of HIV-1 transmission via breast milk and into immune interventions aimed at enhancing this response.
IMPORTANCE Infants born to HIV-1-infected mothers are repeatedly exposed to the virus in breast milk. Remarkably, the transmission rate is low, suggesting that immune factors in the breast milk of HIV-1-infected mothers help to limit transmission. We compared the antibody responses in plasma and breast milk of HIV-1-transmitting and -nontransmitting mothers to identify responses that correlated with reduced risk of postnatal HIV-1 transmission. We found that neither plasma nor breast milk IgG antibody responses were associated with risk of HIV-1 transmission. In contrast, the magnitudes of the breast milk IgA and secretory IgA responses against HIV-1 envelope proteins were associated with reduced risk of postnatal HIV-1 transmission. The results of this study support further investigations of the mechanisms by which mucosal IgA may reduce the risk of HIV-1 transmission via breastfeeding and the development of strategies to enhance milk envelope-specific IgA responses to reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission and promote an HIV-free generation.
PMCID: PMC4577885  PMID: 26202232
22.  Potent Immune Responses in Rhesus Macaques Induced by Nonviral Delivery of a Self-amplifying RNA Vaccine Expressing HIV Type 1 Envelope With a Cationic Nanoemulsion 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2014;211(6):947-955.
Self-amplifying messenger RNA (mRNA) of positive-strand RNA viruses are effective vectors for in situ expression of vaccine antigens and have potential as a new vaccine technology platform well suited for global health applications. The SAM vaccine platform is based on a synthetic, self-amplifying mRNA delivered by a nonviral delivery system. The safety and immunogenicity of an HIV SAM vaccine encoding a clade C envelope glycoprotein formulated with a cationic nanoemulsion (CNE) delivery system was evaluated in rhesus macaques. The HIV SAM vaccine induced potent cellular immune responses that were greater in magnitude than those induced by self-amplifying mRNA packaged in a viral replicon particle (VRP) or by a recombinant HIV envelope protein formulated with MF59 adjuvant, anti-envelope binding (including anti-V1V2), and neutralizing antibody responses that exceeded those induced by the VRP vaccine. These studies provide the first evidence in nonhuman primates that HIV vaccination with a relatively low dose (50 µg) of formulated self-amplifying mRNA is safe and immunogenic.
PMCID: PMC4416123  PMID: 25234719
self-amplifying mRNA; HIV; vaccine; antibodies; T cells
23.  CD40L-Adjuvanted DNA/Modified Vaccinia Virus Ankara Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) Vaccine Enhances Protection against Neutralization-Resistant Mucosal SIV Infection 
Journal of Virology  2015;89(8):4690-4695.
Here, we show that a CD40L-adjuvanted DNA/modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) vaccine enhances protection against a pathogenic neutralization-resistant mucosal SIV infection, improves long-term viral control, and prevents AIDS. Analyses of serum IgG antibodies to linear peptides of SIV Env revealed a strong response to V2, with targeting of fewer epitopes in the immunodominant region of gp41 (gp41-ID) and the V1 region as a correlate for enhanced protection. Greater expansion of antiviral CD8 T cells in the gut correlated with long-term viral control.
PMCID: PMC4442387  PMID: 25653428
24.  Innate Activation of MDC and NK Cells in High-risk HIV-1 Exposed, Sero-Negative (HESN) IV-Drug Users that Share Needles When Compared to Low-risk Non-sharing IV-Drug User Controls 
Previous studies have described increased innate immune activation in HIV-1 exposed, sero-negative intra-venous drug users (HESN-IDU), but have not addressed the independent role of injected drugs and/or repeated injections in driving immune activation.
Here, we investigated innate (NK cells and dendritic cells) and adaptive (HIV-specific antibody and CD8+ T cell) immune parameters among a high-risk cohort of needle-sharing HESN-IDU subjects and compared them to low-risk non-sharing IDU subjects (NS-IDU) and non drug-user controls.
We observed that HIV-specific antibody and CD8+ T cell responses were not detected in HESN-IDU subjects, yet innate immune cell activation was found to be significantly increased on NK cells (CD69 and CD107a upregulation) and MDCs (CD40 and CD83 upregulation) when compared to NS-IDU subjects or non drug-user controls (p<0.01, and p<0.05, respectively). HESN-IDU subjects maintained strong NK cell CD107a degranulation and cytokine (IFN-gamma, TNF-alpha and MIP-1 beta) production following target cell-incubation suggesting that constitutive innate activation does not induce functional exhaustion of innate cells in HESN-IDU subjects. NK activation in HESN-IDU subjects was independent of drug use patterns but was durable over time and correlated with plasma levels of IP-10 by Luminex analysis (rho=0.5073, p=0.0059, n=28).
Our results indicate that heightened innate immune cell activation in HESN-IDU subjects is not the result of the IV-drugs and repeated injection practice itself, but to repeated exposure to factors intrinsic to sharing needles (i.e., exposure to pathogens or heterologous cells among donor blood).
PMCID: PMC4329050  PMID: 25514793
HESN; Intravenous Drug-users (IDU); NK Cells; Dendritic Cells; HIV/AIDS
25.  Infant HIV Type 1 gp120 Vaccination Elicits Robust and Durable Anti-V1V2 Immunoglobulin G Responses and Only Rare Envelope-Specific Immunoglobulin A Responses 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2014;211(4):508-517.
Infant responses to vaccines can be impeded by maternal antibodies and immune system immaturity. It is therefore unclear whether human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) vaccination would elicit similar responses in adults and infants.
HIV-1 Env–specific antibody responses were evaluated in 2 completed pediatric vaccine trials. In the Pediatric AIDS Clinical Trials Group (PACTG) 230 protocol, infants were vaccinated with 4 doses of Chiron rgp120 with MF59 (n = 48), VaxGen rgp120 with aluminum hydroxide (alum; n = 49), or placebo (n = 19) between 0 and 20 weeks of age. In PACTG 326, infants received 4 doses of ALVAC-HIV-1/AIDSVAX B/B with alum (n = 9) or placebo (n = 13) between 0 and 12 weeks of age.
By 52 weeks of age, the majority of maternally acquired antibodies had waned and vaccine Env-specific immunoglobulin G (IgG) responses in vaccinees were higher than in placebo recipients. Chiron vaccine recipients had higher and more-durable IgG responses than VaxGen vaccine recipients or ALVAC/AIDSVAX vaccinees, with vaccine-elicited IgG responses still detectable in 56% of recipients at 2 years of age. Remarkably, at peak immunogenicity, the concentration of anti-V1V2 IgG, a response associated with a reduced risk of HIV-1 acquisition in the RV144 adult vaccine trial, was 22-fold higher in Chiron vaccine recipients, compared with RV144 vaccinees.
As exemplified by the Chiron vaccine regimen, vaccination of infants against HIV-1 can induce robust, durable Env-specific IgG responses, including anti-V1V2 IgG.
PMCID: PMC4318918  PMID: 25170104
HIV-1; vaccine; infants; antibodies

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