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
Identification of vulnerability in the HIV-1 envelope (Env) will aid in Env-based vaccine design. We recently found an HIV-1 clade C Env clone (4-2.J45) amplified from a recently infected Indian patient showing exceptional neutralization sensitivity to autologous plasma in contrast to other autologous Envs obtained at the same time point. By constructing chimeric Envs and fine mapping between sensitive and resistant Env clones, we found that substitution of highly conserved isoleucine (I) with methionine (M) (ATA to ATG) at position 424 in the C4 domain conferred enhanced neutralization sensitivity of Env-pseudotyped viruses to autologous and heterologous plasma antibodies. When tested against monoclonal antibodies targeting different sites in gp120 and gp41, Envs expressing M424 showed significant sensitivity only to anti-V3 monoclonal antibodies and modestly to sCD4 and b12. Substitution of I424M in unrelated Envs also showed similar neutralization phenotype, indicating that M424 in C4 region induces exposure of neutralizing epitopes particularly in CD4 binding sites and V3 loop.
HIV-1; neutralizing antibody; V3 loop; CD4bs; clade C; envelope; C4 domain; recent infection
Data from the RV144 HIV vaccine trial indicated that gp120 V2 antibodies were associated with a lower risk of infection; thus, the mapping of V2 epitopes can contribute to the design of an effective HIV vaccine. We solved the crystal structure of human monoclonal antibody (MAb) 2158, which targets a conformational V2 epitope overlapping the α4β7 integrin binding site, and constructed a full-length model of V1V2. Comparison of computational energy stability to experimental enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) results identified a hydrophobic core that stabilizes the V2 region for optimal 2158 binding, as well as residues that directly mediate side chain interactions with MAb 2158. These data define the binding surface recognized by MAb 2158 and offer a structural explanation for why a mismatched mutation at position 181 (I181X) in the V2 loop was associated with a higher vaccine efficiency in the RV144 clinical vaccine trial.
IMPORTANCE Correlate analysis of the RV144 HIV-1 vaccine trial suggested that the presence of antibodies to the second variable region (V2) of HIV-1 gp120 was responsible for the modest protection observed in the trial. V2 is a highly variable and immunogenic region, and structural information on its antigenic landscape will be important for rational design of an effective HIV-1 vaccine. Using X-ray crystallography, computational design tools, and mutagenesis assays, we carried out a detailed and systematic investigation of the epitope recognition of human V2 MAb 2158 and demonstrated that its epitope region overlaps the integrin binding site within V2. In addition, we propose a structure-based mechanism for mismatching of the isoleucine at position 181 and the increased vaccine efficacy seen in the RV144 vaccine trial.
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 third variable region (V3) of HIV-1 gp120 plays a key role in viral entry into host cells; thus, it is a potential target for vaccine design. Human monoclonal antibody (mAb) 447–52D is one of the most broadly and potently neutralizing anti-V3 mAbs. We further characterized the 447–52D epitope by determining a high-resolution crystal structure of the Fab fragment in complex with a cyclic V3 and interrogated the antigen–antibody interaction by a combination of site-specific mutagenesis, isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) and neutralization assays. We found that 447–52D’s neutralization capability is correlated with its binding affinity and at 25 °C the Gibbs free binding energy is composed of a large enthalpic component and a small favorable entropic component. The large enthalpic contribution is due to (i) an extensive hydrogen bond network, (ii) a π–cation sandwiching the V3 crown apex residue Arg315, and (iii) a salt bridge between the 447–52D heavy chain residue AspH95 and Arg315. Arg315 is often harbored by clade B viruses; thus, our data explained why 447–52D preferentially neutralizes clade B viruses. Interrogation of the thermodynamic signatures of residues at the antigen binding interface gives key insights into their contributions in the antigen–antibody interaction.
Standardized assessments of HIV-1 vaccine-elicited neutralizing antibody responses are complicated by the genetic and antigenic variability of the viral envelope glycoproteins (Envs). To address these issues, suitable reference strains are needed that are representative of the global epidemic. Several panels have been recommended previously, but no clear answers have been available on how many and which strains are best suited for this purpose. We used a statistical model selection method to identify a global panel of reference Env clones from among 219 Env-pseudotyped viruses assayed in TZM-bl cells with sera from 205 HIV-1-infected individuals. The Envs and sera were sampled globally from diverse geographic locations and represented all major genetic subtypes and circulating recombinant forms of the virus. Assays with a panel size of only nine viruses adequately represented the spectrum of HIV-1 serum neutralizing activity seen with the larger panel of 219 viruses. An optimal panel of nine viruses was selected and augmented with three additional viruses for greater genetic and antigenic coverage. The spectrum of HIV-1 serum neutralizing activity seen with the final 12-virus panel closely approximated the activity seen with subtype-matched viruses. Moreover, the final panel was highly sensitive for detection of many of the known broadly neutralizing antibodies. For broader assay applications, all 12 Env clones were converted to infectious molecular clones using a proviral backbone carrying a Renilla luciferase reporter gene (Env.IMC.LucR viruses). This global panel should facilitate highly standardized assessments of vaccine-elicited neutralizing antibodies across multiple HIV-1 vaccine platforms in different parts of the world.
IMPORTANCE An effective HIV-1 vaccine will need to overcome the extraordinary genetic variability of the virus, where most variation occurs in the viral envelope glycoproteins that are the sole targets for neutralizing antibodies. Efforts to elicit broadly cross-reactive neutralizing antibodies that will protect against infection by most circulating strains of the virus are guided in part by in vitro assays that determine the ability of vaccine-elicited antibodies to neutralize genetically diverse HIV-1 variants. Until now, little information was available on how many and which strains of the virus are best suited for this purpose. We applied robust statistical methods to evaluate a large neutralization data set and identified a small panel of viruses that are a good representation of the global epidemic. The neutralization properties of this new panel of reference strains should facilitate the development of an effective HIV-1 vaccine.
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 RV144 HIV-1 vaccine trial demonstrated partial efficacy of 31% against HIV-1 infection. Studies into possible correlates of protection found that antibodies specific to the V1 and V2 (V1/V2) region of envelope correlated inversely with infection risk and that viruses isolated from trial participants contained genetic signatures of vaccine-induced pressure in the V1/V2 region. We explored the hypothesis that the genetic signatures in V1 and V2 could be partly attributed to selection by vaccine-primed T cells. We performed a T-cell-based sieve analysis of breakthrough viruses in the RV144 trial and found evidence of predicted HLA binding escape that was greater in vaccine versus placebo recipients. The predicted escape depended on class I HLA A*02- and A*11-restricted epitopes in the MN strain rgp120 vaccine immunogen. Though we hypothesized that this was indicative of postacquisition selection pressure, we also found that vaccine efficacy (VE) was greater in A*02-positive (A*02+) participants than in A*02− participants (VE = 54% versus 3%, P = 0.05). Vaccine efficacy against viruses with a lysine residue at site 169, important to antibody binding and implicated in vaccine-induced immune pressure, was also greater in A*02+ participants (VE = 74% versus 15%, P = 0.02). Additionally, a reanalysis of vaccine-induced immune responses that focused on those that were shown to correlate with infection risk suggested that the humoral responses may have differed in A*02+ participants. These exploratory and hypothesis-generating analyses indicate there may be an association between a class I HLA allele and vaccine efficacy, highlighting the importance of considering HLA alleles and host immune genetics in HIV vaccine trials.
IMPORTANCE The RV144 trial was the first to show efficacy against HIV-1 infection. Subsequently, much effort has been directed toward understanding the mechanisms of protection. Here, we conducted a T-cell-based sieve analysis, which compared the genetic sequences of viruses isolated from infected vaccine and placebo recipients. Though we hypothesized that the observed sieve effect indicated postacquisition T-cell selection, we also found that vaccine efficacy was greater for participants who expressed HLA A*02, an allele implicated in the sieve analysis. Though HLA alleles have been associated with disease progression and viral load in HIV-1 infection, these data are the first to suggest the association of a class I HLA allele and vaccine efficacy. While these statistical analyses do not provide mechanistic evidence of protection in RV144, they generate testable hypotheses for the HIV vaccine community and they highlight the importance of assessing the impact of host immune genetics in vaccine-induced immunity and protection. (This study has been registered at ClinicalTrials.gov under registration no. NCT00223080.)
One approach to the development of an HIV vaccine is to design a protein template which can present gp120 epitopes inducing cross-neutralizing antibodies. To select a V3 sequence for immunogen design, we compared the neutralizing activities of 18 anti-V3 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) derived from Cameroonian and Indian individuals infected with clade AG and C, respectively. It was found that V3 mAbs from the Cameroonian patients were significantly more cross-neutralizing than those from India. Interestingly, superior neutralizing activity of Cameroonian mAbs was also observed among the nine VH5-51/VL lambda genes encoding V3 mAbs which mediate a similar mode of recognition. This correlated with higher relative binding affinity to a variety of gp120s and increased mutation rates in V3 mAbs from Cameroon. These results suggest that clade C V3 is probably weakly immunogenic and that the V3 sequence of CRF02_AG viruses can serve as a plausible template for vaccine immunogen design.
HIV-1; V3 region; Non-B clade HIV-1; Immunoglobulin gene usage; Human monoclonal antibodies; HIV neutralizing antibodies
Hematogenous dissemination of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tb) occurs during both primary and reactivated tuberculosis (TB). Although hematogenous dissemination occurs in non-HIV TB patients, in ∼80% of these patients, TB manifests exclusively as pulmonary disease. In contrast, extrapulmonary, disseminated, and/or miliary TB is seen in 60–70% of HIV-infected TB patients, suggesting that hematogenous dissemination is likely more common in HIV+ patients. To understand M. tb adaptation to the blood environment during bacteremia, we have studied the transcriptome of M. tb replicating in human whole blood. To investigate if M. tb discriminates between the hematogenous environments of immunocompetent and immunodeficient individuals, we compared the M. tb transcriptional profiles during replication in blood from HIV- and HIV+ donors. Our results demonstrate that M. tb survives and replicates in blood from both HIV- and HIV+ donors and enhances its virulence/pathogenic potential in the hematogenous environment. The M. tb blood-specific transcriptome reflects suppression of dormancy, induction of cell-wall remodeling, alteration in mode of iron acquisition, potential evasion of immune surveillance, and enhanced expression of important virulence factors that drive active M. tb infection and dissemination. These changes are accentuated during bacterial replication in blood from HIV+ patients. Furthermore, the expression of ESAT-6, which participates in dissemination of M. tb from the lungs, is upregulated in M. tb growing in blood, especially during growth in blood from HIV+ patients. Preliminary experiments also demonstrate that ESAT-6 promotes HIV replication in U1 cells. These studies provide evidence, for the first time, that during bacteremia, M. tb can adapt to the blood environment by modifying its transcriptome in a manner indicative of an enhanced-virulence phenotype that favors active infection. Additionally, transcriptional modifications in HIV+ blood may further accentuate M. tb virulence and drive both M. tb and HIV infection.
Neutralizing antibody assays are widely used in research toward development of a preventive HIV-1 vaccine. Currently, the neutralization potency of an antibody is typically quantified by the inhibitory concentration (IC) values (e.g., IC50), and the neutralization breadth is estimated by the empirical method. In this paper, we propose the AUC and pAUC measures for summarizing the titration curve, which complement the commonly used IC measure. We present multiple advantages of AUC over IC50, which include no complications due to censoring, the capability to explore low-level neutralization, and improved coverage probabilities and efficiency of estimators. We also propose statistical methods for determining positive neutralization and for estimating the neutralization breadth. The simulation results suggest that the AUC measure is preferable in particular as IC50s get closer to the highest concentration of antibodies tested. For the majority of the assay data, the AUC method is more powerful than the IC50 method. However, since these methods test different hypotheses, it is not unexpected that some virus-antibody combinations are AUC positive but IC50 negative or vice versa.
AUC; breadth; HIV-1; neutralization assay; polynomial model; titration curve
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.
A human anti-HIV monoclonal antibody (mAb), 2909, selected on the basis of its potent neutralizing activity against HIV-1SF162, recognizes a complex epitope V2/V3 present on intact virions but not on soluble gp120. To confirm the quaternary nature of the epitope, 2909 binding was tested against the pseudovirus SF162 wild type (WT) expressing trimers and/or an SF162 mutant expressing monomeric envelope proteins. The construction of the SF162 mutant was made by an alanine substitution of nine hydrophobic residues in the N-terminal heptad repeat region of gp41 molecules that failed to form trimers on the virus surface. Monoclonal Ab 2909 bound only to SF162 WT virions and transfected cells as determined by mmunoprecipitation and flow cytometry, respectively, but showed no reactivity to the SF162 mutant expressing monomeric gp120. The data provide further evidence for the existence of a unique quaternary epitope V2/V3 on the surface of unliganded virus.
HIV-1; neutralizing antibody; V2/V3 regions
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.
We previously showed that expression of human FcγRI on TZM-bl cells potentiates neutralization by gp41 membrane-proximal external region (MPER)-specific antibodies. Here we show that lysosomotropic reagents known to block phagocytosis do not diminish this effect. We also show that FcγRI occasionally potentiates neutralization by antibodies against the V3 loop of gp120 and cluster I of gp41. We conclude that FcγRI provides a kinetic advantage for neutralizing antibodies against partially cryptic epitopes independent of phagocytosis.
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.
To better understand the limits of antigenic reactivity and epitope accessibility of the V3 domain of primary HIV-1 isolates, we evaluated three human anti-V3 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) and selected guinea pig vaccine sera for neutralization against reference panels of subtype B and C pseudoviruses derived from early stage infections. The mAbs and vaccine sera potently neutralized several prototype viruses, but displayed substantially less neutralization of most reference strains. In the presence of soluble CD4 (sCD4), the breadth of V3-mediated neutralization was increased; up to 80% and 77% of the subtype B and C viruses respectively were sensitive to V3-mediated neutralization. Unlike sCD4, the reaction of CD4-binding site mAbs b12 and F105 with native virus did not lead to full exposure of the V3 domain. These findings confirm that V3 antibodies recognize most primary viral strains, but that the epitope often has limited accessibility in the context of native envelope spike.
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.
In the case-control study of the RV144 vaccine trial, the levels of antibodies to the V1V2 region of the gp120 envelope glycoprotein were found to correlate inversely with risk of HIV infection. This recent demonstration of the potential role of V1V2 as a vaccine target has catapulted this region into the focus of HIV-1 research. We previously described seven human monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) derived from HIV-infected individuals that are directed against conformational epitopes in the V1V2 domain. In this study, using lysates of SF162 pseudoviruses carrying V1V2 mutations, we mapped the epitopes of these seven mAbs. All tested mAbs demonstrated a similar binding pattern in which three mutations (F176A, Y177T, and D180L) abrogated binding of at least six of the seven mAbs to ≤15% of SF162 wildtype binding. Binding of six or all of the mAbs was reduced to ≤50% of wildtype by single substitutions at seven positions (168, 180, 181, 183, 184, 191, and 193), while one change, V181I, increased the binding of all mAbs. When mapped onto a model of V2, our results suggest that the epitope of the conformational V2 mAbs is located mostly in the disordered region of the available crystal structure of V1V2, overlapping and surrounding the α4β7 binding site on V2.
The production of human monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) has been improved recently using the single B cell and PCR technology. A number of new anti-HIV-1 mAbs directed to various epitopes were produced by selecting single B cells from HIV positive individuals using the HIV-1 envelope (Env) proteins, and we tested whether the peptide can select B cells specific to a particular Env epitope. Using the fluorescently-labeled peptide tetramer representative of the V3 loop of HIV-1 Env gp120 for staining the B cells derived from one HIV-1 infected donor, four clonal human mAbs were produced with specificity to the V3 region. The clonality of the four V3 mAbs was based on the usage of the same immunoglobulin genes and almost identical sequence of CDRs. The amino acid changes were present only in the framework and, possibly, they could be related to the differences observed in the relative affinity binding of these four mAbs to V3 antigen. One representative V3 mAb displayed very potent neutralizing activity to one of two viruses tested. This study shows the feasibility of utilizing a peptide tetramer to select epitope-specific B cells and produce mAbs.
HIV-1; V3 region; immunoglobulin gene usage; human monoclonal antibodies; HIV neutralizing antibodies
HIV-1 R5 viruses vary extensively in their capacity to infect macrophages. R5 viruses that confer efficient infection of macrophages are able to exploit low levels of CD4 for infection and predominate in brain tissue, where macrophages are a major target for infection. HIV-1 R5 founder viruses that are transmitted were reported to be non-macrophage-tropic. Here, we investigated the sensitivities of macrophage-tropic and non-macrophage-tropic R5 envelopes to neutralizing antibodies. We observed striking differences in the sensitivities of Env+ pseudovirions to soluble CD4 (sCD4) and to neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) that target the CD4 binding site. Macrophage-tropic R5 Envs were sensitive to sCD4, while non-macrophage-tropic Envs were significantly more resistant. In contrast, all Envs were sensitive to VRC01 regardless of tropism, while MAb b12 conferred an intermediate neutralization pattern where all the macrophage-tropic and about half of the non-macrophage-tropic Envs were sensitive. CD4, b12, and VRC01 share binding specificities on the outer domain of gp120. However, these antibodies differ in their ability to induce conformational changes on the trimeric envelope and in specificity for residues on the V1V2 loop stem and β20-21 junction that are targets for CD4 in recruiting the bridging sheet. These distinct specificities of CD4, b12, and VRC01 likely explain the observed differences in Env sensitivity to inhibition by these reagents and provide an insight into the envelope mechanisms that control macrophage tropism. We present a model where the efficiency of bridging-sheet recruitment by CD4 is a major determinant of HIV-1 R5 envelope sensitivity to soluble CD4 and macrophage tropism.
Human monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) 447-52D and 537-10D, both coded by the VH3 gene and specific for the third variable region (V3) of the HIV-1 gp120, were found to share antigen binding structural elements including an elongated CDR H3 forming main-chain interactions with the N-terminus of the V3 crown. However, water-mediated hydrogen bonds and a unique cation-π sandwich stacking allow 447-52D to be broadly reactive with V3 containing both the GPGR and GPGQ crown motifs, while the deeper binding pocket, and a buried Glu in the binding site of 537-10D limit its reactivity to only V3 containing the GPGR motif. Our results suggest that the design of immunogens for anti-V3 antibodies should avoid the Arg at the V3 crown, as GPGR-containing epitopes appear to select for B cells making antibodies of narrower specificity than V3 that carry Gln at this position.
HIV-1; gp120; V3; monoclonal antibody; antibody-antigen interactions
The recent analysis of the first successful RV144 vaccine trial revealed that a high titer of plasma anti-V2 antibodies (Abs) correlated with a decreased risk of HIV-1 infection in vaccine recipients. To understand the mechanism of immune correlates, we studied seven anti-V2 monoclonal Abs (mAbs) developed from HIV-1 infected individuals. The V2 mAbs target conserved epitopes, including the binding site for α4β7 integrin, and are broadly cross-reactive with various gp120 proteins. Preferential usage of the VH1-69 gene by V2 mAbs may depend on selection by the same antigenic structure. Six of seven V2 mAbs weakly neutralized four to eight of the 41 pseudoviruses tested and resistance to neutralization was correlated with longer V2 domains. The data suggest the presence of shared, conserved structural elements in the V2 loop, and these can be used in the design of vaccine immunogens inducing broadly reactive Abs with anti-viral activities.
HIV-1; V2 domain; Envelope proteins; Human monoclonal antibodies; HIV neutralizing antibodies; Glycosylation
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.