Neutralizing Abs provide the protective effect of the majority of existing human vaccines. For a prophylactic vaccine against HIV-1, broadly neutralizing Abs (bNAbs) targeting conserved epitopes of the viral envelope glycoproteins (Env) are likely required, as the pool of circulating HIV-1 variants is extremely diverse. The failure to efficiently induce bNAbs by vaccination may be due to the use of sub-optimal immunogens or immunization regimens, or it may indicate that B cells specific for broadly neutralizing Env determinants are selected against during peripheral checkpoints, either before or after antigen encounter. To investigate if perturbation of B cell subsets prior to immunization with recombinant Env protein affects the vaccine-induced Ab response in mice, we used B Lymphocyte Stimulator (BLyS), a cytokine that regulates survival and selection of peripheral B cells. We show that the transient BLyS treatment used here substantially affected naïve B cell populations; in particular, it resulted in an increased number of B cells surviving counter-selection at the transitional stages. We also observed an increased number of mature naïve B cells, especially marginal zone B cells, in BLyS-treated mice. Intriguingly, provision of excess BLyS prior to immunization led to a consistent improvement in the frequency and potency of HIV-1 Env vaccine-induced neutralizing Ab responses, without increasing the number of Env-specific Ab-secreting cells or the Ab binding titers measured after boosting. The results presented here suggest that an increased understanding of BLyS-regulated processes may help the design of vaccine regimens aimed at eliciting improved neutralizing Ab responses against HIV-1.
The gp120 CD4 binding site (CD4bs) and coreceptor binding site (CoRbs) are two functionally conserved elements of the HIV-1 envelope glycoproteins (Env). We previously defined the presence of CD4bs-neutralizing antibodies in the serum of an HIV-1-infected individual and subsequently isolated the CD4bs-specific monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) VRC01 and VRC03 from the memory B cell population. Since this donor's serum also appeared to contain neutralizing antibodies to the CoRbs, we employed a differential fluorescence-activated cell sorter (FACS)-based sorting strategy using an Env trimer possessing a CoRbs knockout mutation (I420R) to isolate specific B cells. The MAb VRC06 was recovered from these cells, and its genetic sequence allowed us to identify a clonal relative termed VRC06b, which was isolated from a prior cell sort using a resurfaced core gp120 probe and its cognate CD4bs knockout mutant. VRC06 and VRC06b neutralized 22% and 44% of viruses tested, respectively. Epitope mapping studies revealed that the two MAbs were sensitive to mutations in both the gp120 CoRbs and the CD4bs and could cross-block binding of both CD4bs and CoRbs MAbs to gp120. Fine mapping indicated contacts within the gp120 bridging sheet and the base of the third major variable region (V3), which are elements of the CoRbs. Cell surface binding assays demonstrated preferential recognition of fully cleaved Env trimers over uncleaved trimers. Thus, VRC06 and VRC06b are Env trimer precursor cleavage-sensitive neutralizing MAbs that bind to a region of gp120 that overlaps both the primary and the secondary HIV-1 receptor binding sites.
Antibody PG9 is a prototypical member of a class of V1/V2-directed antibodies that effectively neutralizes diverse strains of HIV-1. We analyzed strain-specific resistance to PG9 using sequence and structural information. For multiply resistant strains, mutations in a short segment of V1/V2 resulted in gain of sensitivity to PG9 and related V1/V2 neutralizing antibodies, suggesting both a common mechanism of HIV-1 resistance to and a common mode of recognition by this class of antibodies.
Variable regions 1 and 2 (V1/V2) of human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) gp120 envelope glycoprotein are critical for viral evasion of antibody neutralization, and are themselves protected by extraordinary sequence diversity and N-linked glycosylation. Human antibodies such as PG9 nonetheless engage V1/V2 and neutralize 80% of HIV-1 isolates. Here we report the structure of V1/V2 in complex with PG9. V1/V2 forms a four-stranded β-sheet domain, in which sequence diversity and glycosylation are largely segregated to strand-connecting loops. PG9 recognition involves electrostatic, sequence-independent and glycan interactions: the latter account for over half the interactive surface but are of sufficiently weak affinity to avoid autoreactivity. The structures of V1/V2-directed antibodies CH04 and PGT145 indicate that they share a common mode of glycan penetration by extended anionic loops. In addition to structurally defining V1/V2, the results thus identify a paradigm of antibody recognition for highly glycosylated antigens, which—with PG9—involves a site of vulnerability comprising just two glycans and a strand.
Antibody VRC01 is a human immunoglobulin that neutralizes about 90% of HIV-1 isolates. To understand how such broadly neutralizing antibodies develop, we used x-ray crystallography and 454 pyrosequencing to characterize additional VRC01-like antibodies from HIV-1–infected individuals. Crystal structures revealed a convergent mode of binding for diverse antibodies to the same CD4-binding-site epitope. A functional genomics analysis of expressed heavy and light chains revealed common pathways of antibody-heavy chain maturation, confined to the IGHV1-2*02 lineage, involving dozens of somatic changes, and capable of pairing with different light chains. Broadly neutralizing HIV-1 immunity associated with VRC01-like antibodies thus involves the evolution of antibodies to a highly affinity-matured state required to recognize an invariant viral structure, with lineages defined from thousands of sequences providing a genetic roadmap of their development.
The monoclonal antibody (MAb) VRC01 was isolated from a slowly progressing HIV-1-infected donor and was shown to neutralize diverse HIV-1 strains by binding to the conserved CD4 binding site (CD4bs) of gp120. To better understand the virologic factors associated with such antibody development, we characterized HIV-1 envelope (Env) variants from this donor and five other donors who developed broadly neutralizing antibodies. A total of 473 env sequences were obtained by single-genome amplification, and 100 representative env clones were expressed and tested for entry and neutralization sensitivity. While VRC01 neutralizes about 90% of the genetically diverse heterologous HIV-1 strains tested, only selective archival Env variants from the VRC01 donor were sensitive to VRC01 and all of the Env variants derived from the donor plasma were resistant, indicating strong antibody-based selection pressure. Despite their resistance to this broadly reactive MAb that partially mimics CD4, all Env variants required CD4 for entry. Three other CD4bs MAbs from the same donor were able to neutralize some VRC01 escape variants, suggesting that CD4bs antibodies continued to evolve in response to viral escape. We also observed a relatively high percentage of VRC01-resistant Env clones in the plasma of four of five additional broadly neutralizing donors, suggesting the presence of CD4bs-directed neutralizing antibodies in these donors. In total, these data indicate that the CD4bs-directed neutralizing antibodies exert ongoing selection pressure on the conserved CD4bs epitope of HIV-1 Env.
Select HIV-1-infected individuals develop sera capable of neutralizing diverse viral strains. The molecular basis of this neutralization is currently being deciphered by the isolation of HIV-1-neutralizing antibodies. In one infected donor, three neutralizing antibodies, PGT135–137, were identified by assessment of neutralization from individually sorted B cells and found to recognize an epitope containing an N-linked glycan at residue 332 on HIV-1 gp120. Here we use next-generation sequencing and bioinformatics methods to interrogate the B cell record of this donor to gain a more complete understanding of the humoral immune response. PGT135–137-gene family specific primers were used to amplify heavy-chain and light-chain variable-domain sequences. Pyrosequencing produced 141,298 heavy-chain sequences of IGHV4-39 origin and 87,229 light-chain sequences of IGKV3-15 origin. A number of heavy and light-chain sequences of ∼90% identity to PGT137, several to PGT136, and none of high identity to PGT135 were identified. After expansion of these sequences to include close phylogenetic relatives, a total of 202 heavy-chain sequences and 72 light-chain sequences were identified. These sequences were clustered into populations of 95% identity comprising 15 for heavy chain and 10 for light chain, and a select sequence from each population was synthesized and reconstituted with a PGT137-partner chain. Reconstituted antibodies showed varied neutralization phenotypes for HIV-1 clade A and D isolates. Sequence diversity of the antibody population represented by these tested sequences was notably higher than observed with a 454 pyrosequencing-control analysis on 10 antibodies of defined sequence, suggesting that this diversity results primarily from somatic maturation. Our results thus provide an example of how pathogens like HIV-1 are opposed by a varied humoral immune response, derived from intrinsic mechanisms of antibody development, and embodied by somatic populations of diverse antibodies.
antibody bioinformatics; high-throughput sequencing; HIV-1; immunity; N-linked glycan
HIV-1 neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) define key targets for vaccine development and are being considered for passive prevention of infection. We analyzed the interaction of MAbs to two independent epitopes on the viral envelope glycoprotein. Potently neutralizing MAbs to the CD4 binding site and V1V2 region displayed no in vitro cross-competition and displayed additive, though not synergistic, neutralization activity. Predicted neutralization coverage of a combination of two MAbs reached 97% on a 208-isolate panel.
HIV-1 is relatively resistant to antibody-mediated neutralization; however, rare antibodies to the exterior envelope glycoprotein, gp120, and the transmembrane glycoprotein, gp41, can neutralize a broad array of isolates. Two antibodies, 2F5 and 4E10, are directed against the gp41 membrane proximal external region (MPER); however, the kinetic neutralization signature of these antibodies remains unresolved. Previously, we reported that the fully cleaved, cell surface envelope glycoproteins (Env) derived from the primary isolate, JR-FL, are well recognized exclusively by gp120-directed neutralizing ligands and not by nonneutralizing gp120 antibodies. However, the gp120 nonneutralizing antibodies can recognize HIV spikes that are rendered fully cleavage defective by site-directed mutagenesis. Here, we extended such analysis to gp41 neutralizing and nonneutralizing antibodies and, relative to the rules of gp120-specific antibody recognition, we observed marked contrasts. Similar to gp120 recognition, the nonneutralizing gp41 cluster 1 or cluster 2 antibodies bound much more efficiently to cleavage-defective spikes when compared to their recognition of cleaved spikes. In contrast to gp120 neutralizing antibody recognition, the broadly neutralizing gp41 antibodies 2F5 and 4E10, like the nonneutralizing gp41 antibodies, did not efficiently recognize the predominantly cleaved, primary isolate JR-FL spikes. However, if the spikes were rendered cleavage defective, recognition by both the neutralizing and nonneutralizing ligand markedly increased. CD4 interaction with the cleaved spikes markedly increased recognition by most nonneutralizing gp41 antibodies, whereas such treatment had a minimal increase of 2F5 and 4E10 recognition. These data indicate again the profound influence that cleavage imposes on the quaternary packing of primary isolate spikes and have important implications for soluble trimer candidate immunogens.
V2/V3 conformational epitope antibodies that broadly neutralize HIV-1 (PG9 and PG16) have been recently described. Since an elicitation of previously known broadly neutralizing antibodies has proven elusive, the induction of antibodies with such specificity is an important goal for HIV-1 vaccine development. A critical question is which immunogens and vaccine formulations might be used to trigger and drive the development of memory B cell precursors with V2/V3 conformational epitope specificity. In this paper we identified a clonal lineage of four V2/V3 conformational epitope broadly neutralizing antibodies (CH01 to CH04) from an African HIV-1-infected broad neutralizer and inferred their common reverted unmutated ancestor (RUA) antibodies. While conformational epitope antibodies rarely bind recombinant Env monomers, a screen of 32 recombinant envelopes for binding to the CH01 to CH04 antibodies showed monoclonal antibody (MAb) binding to the E.A244 gp120 Env and to chronic Env AE.CM243; MAbs CH01 and CH02 also bound to transmitted/founder Env B.9021. CH01 to CH04 neutralized 38% to 49% of a panel of 91 HIV-1 tier 2 pseudoviruses, while the RUAs neutralized only 16% of HIV-1 isolates. Although the reverted unmutated ancestors showed restricted neutralizing activity, they retained the ability to bind to the E.A244 gp120 HIV-1 envelope with an affinity predicted to trigger B cell development. Thus, E.A244, B.9021, and AE.CM243 Envs are three potential immunogen candidates for studies aimed at defining strategies to induce V2/V3 conformational epitope-specific antibodies.
The structure of VRC01 in complex with the HIV-1 gp120 core reveals that this broadly neutralizing CD4 binding site (CD4bs) antibody partially mimics the interaction of the primary virus receptor, CD4, with gp120. Here, we extended the investigation of the VRC01-gp120 core interaction to the biologically relevant viral spike to better understand the mechanism of VRC01-mediated neutralization and to define viral elements associated with neutralization resistance. In contrast to the interaction of CD4 or the CD4bs monoclonal antibody (MAb) b12 with the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env), occlusion of the VRC01 epitope by quaternary constraints was not a major factor limiting neutralization. Mutagenesis studies indicated that VRC01 contacts within the gp120 loop D, the CD4 binding loop, and the V5 region were necessary for optimal VRC01 neutralization, as suggested by the crystal structure. In contrast to interactions with the soluble gp120 monomer, VRC01 interaction with the native viral spike did not occur in a CD4-like manner; VRC01 did not induce gp120 shedding from the Env spike or enhance gp41 membrane proximal external region (MPER)-directed antibody binding to the Env spike. Finally, VRC01 did not display significant reactivity with human antigens, boding well for potential in vivo applications. The data indicate that VRC01 interacts with gp120 in the context of the functional spike in a manner distinct from that of CD4. It achieves potent neutralization by precisely targeting the CD4bs without requiring alterations of Env spike configuration and by avoiding steric constraints imposed by the quaternary structure of the functional Env spike.
HIV-1 is neutralized by a class of antibodies that preferentially recognize a site formed on the assembled viral spike. Such quaternary structure-specific antibodies have diverse neutralization breadths, with antibodies PG16 and PG9 able to neutralize 70 to 80% of circulating HIV-1 isolates while antibody 2909 is specific for strain SF162. We show that alteration between a rare lysine and a common N-linked glycan at position 160 of HIV-1 gp120 is primarily responsible for toggling between 2909 and PG16/PG9 neutralization sensitivity. Quaternary structure-specific antibodies appear to target antigenic variants of the same epitope, with neutralization breadth determined by the prevalence of recognized variants among circulating isolates.
Cross-reactive neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) are found in the sera of many HIV-1–infected individuals, but the virologic basis of their neutralization remains poorly understood. We used knowledge of HIV-1 envelope structure to develop antigenically resurfaced glycoproteins specific for the structurally conserved site of initial CD4 receptor binding. These probes were used to identify sera with NAbs to the CD4-binding site (CD4bs) and to isolate individual B cells from such an HIV-1–infected donor. By expressing immunoglobulin genes from individual cells, we identified three monoclonal antibodies, including a pair of somatic variants that neutralized over 90% of circulating HIV-1 isolates. Exceptionally broad HIV-1 neutralization can be achieved with individual antibodies targeted to the functionally conserved CD4bs of glycoprotein 120, an important insight for future HIV-1 vaccine design.
We recently reported that rhesus macaques inoculated with CD4-binding-competent and CD4-binding-defective soluble YU2-derived HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env) trimers in adjuvant generate comparable levels of Env-specific binding antibodies (Abs) and T cell responses. We also showed that Abs directed against the Env coreceptor binding site (CoRbs) were elicited only in animals immunized with CD4-binding-competent trimers and not in animals immunized with CD4-binding-defective trimers, indicating that a direct interaction between Env and CD4 occurs in vivo. To investigate both the overall consequences of in vivo Env-CD4 interactions and the elicitation of CoRbs-directed Abs for protection against heterologous simian-human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV) challenge, we exposed rhesus macaques immunized with CD4-binding-competent and CD4-binding-defective trimers to the CCR5-tropic SHIV-SF162P4 challenge virus. Compared to unvaccinated controls, all vaccinated animals displayed improved control of plasma viremia, independent of the presence or absence of CoRbs-directed Abs prior to challenge. Immunization resulted in plasma responses that neutralized the heterologous SHIV challenge stock in vitro, with similar neutralizing Ab titers elicited by the CD4-binding-competent and CD4-binding-defective trimers. The neutralizing responses against both the SHIV-SF162P4 stock and a recombinant virus pseudotyped with a cloned SHIV-SF162P4-derived Env were significantly boosted by the SHIV challenge. Collectively, these results suggest that the capacity of soluble Env trimers to interact with primate CD4 in vivo and to stimulate the production of moderate titers of CoRbs-directed Abs did not influence the magnitude of the neutralizing Ab recall response after viral challenge or the subsequent control of viremia in this heterologous SHIV challenge model.
Broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) against the HIV-1 envelope glycoproteins (Envs) have proven difficult to elicit by immunization. Therefore, to identify effective Env neutralization targets, efforts are underway to define the specificities of bNAbs in chronically infected individuals. For a prophylactic vaccine, it is equally important to define the immunogenic properties of the heavily glycosylated Env in healthy primates devoid of confounding HIV-induced pathogenic factors. We used rhesus macaques to investigate the magnitude and kinetics of B cell responses stimulated by Env trimers in adjuvant. Robust Env-specific memory B cell responses and high titers of circulating antibodies developed after trimer inoculation. Subsequent immunizations resulted in significant expansion of Env-specific IgG-producing plasma cell populations and circulating Abs that displayed increasing avidity and neutralization capacity. The neutralizing activity elicited with the regimen used was, in most aspects, superior to that elicited by a regimen based on monomeric Env immunization in humans. Despite the potency and breadth of the trimer-elicited response, protection against heterologous rectal simian-HIV (SHIV) challenge was modest, illustrating the challenge of eliciting sufficient titers of cross-reactive protective NAbs in mucosal sites. These data provide important information for the design and evaluation of vaccines aimed at stimulating protective HIV-1 immune responses in humans.
Monoclonal antibody 2909 belongs to a class of potently neutralizing antibodies that recognize quaternary epitopes on HIV-1. Some members of this class, such as 2909, are strain specific, while others, such as antibody PG16, are broadly neutralizing; all, however, recognize a region on the gp120 envelope glycoprotein that includes two loops (V2 and V3) and forms appropriately only in the oligomeric HIV-1 spike (gp1203/gp413). Here we present the crystal structure of 2909 and report structure-function analysis with antibody chimeras composed of 2909 and other members of this antibody class. The 2909 structure was dominated by a heavy-chain third-complementarity-determining region (CDR H3) of 21 residues, which comprised 36% of the combining surface and formed a β-hairpin club extending ∼20 Å beyond the rest of the antibody. Sequence analysis and mass spectrometry identified sites of tyrosine sulfation at the middle and top of CDR H3; substitutions with phenylalanine either ablated (middle substitution) or substantially diminished (top substitution) neutralization. Chimeric antibodies composed of heavy and light chains, exchanged between 2909 and other members of the class, indicated a substantial lack of complementation. Comparison of 2909 to PG16 (which is tyrosine sulfated and the only other member of the class for which a structure has previously been reported) showed that both utilize protruding, anionic CDR H3s for recognition. Thus, despite some diversity, members of this class share structural and functional similarities, with conserved features of the CDR H3 subdomain likely reflecting prevalent solutions by the human immune system for recognition of a quaternary site of HIV-1 vulnerability.
The site on HIV-1 gp120 that binds to the CD4 receptor is vulnerable to antibodies. However, most antibodies that interact with this site cannot neutralize HIV-1. To understand the basis of this resistance, we determined co-crystal structures for two poorly neutralizing, CD4–binding site (CD4BS) antibodies, F105 and b13, in complexes with gp120. Both antibodies exhibited approach angles to gp120 similar to those of CD4 and a rare, broadly neutralizing CD4BS antibody, b12. Slight differences in recognition, however, resulted in substantial differences in F105- and b13-bound conformations relative to b12-bound gp120. Modeling and binding experiments revealed these conformations to be poorly compatible with the viral spike. This incompatibility, the consequence of slight differences in CD4BS recognition, renders HIV-1 resistant to all but the most accurately targeted antibodies.
Induction of antibodies that neutralize a broad range of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) isolates is a major goal of vaccine development. To study natural examples of broad neutralization, we analyzed sera from 103 HIV-1-infected subjects. Among progressor patients, 20% of sera neutralized more than 75% of a panel of 20 diverse viral isolates. Little activity was observed in sera from long-term nonprogressors (elite controllers). Breadth of neutralization was correlated with viral load, but not with CD4 count, history of past antiretroviral use, age, gender, race/ethnicity, or route of exposure. Clustering analysis of sera by a novel method identified a statistically robust subgrouping of sera that demonstrated broad and potent neutralization activity.
The high-affinity in vivo interaction between soluble HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env) immunogens and primate CD4 results in conformational changes that alter the immunogenicity of the gp120 subunit. Because the conserved binding site on gp120 that directly interacts with CD4 is a major vaccine target, we sought to better understand the impact of in vivo Env-CD4 interactions during vaccination. Rhesus macaques were immunized with soluble wild-type (WT) Env trimers, and two trimer immunogens rendered CD4 binding defective through distinct mechanisms. In one variant, we introduced a mutation that directly disrupts CD4 binding (368D/R). In the second variant, we introduced three mutations (423I/M, 425N/K, and 431G/E) that disrupt CD4 binding indirectly by altering a gp120 subdomain known as the bridging sheet, which is required for locking Env into a stable interaction with CD4. Following immunization, Env-specific binding antibody titers and frequencies of Env-specific memory B cells were comparable between the groups. However, the quality of neutralizing antibody responses induced by the variants was distinctly different. Antibodies against the coreceptor binding site were elicited by WT trimers but not the CD4 binding-defective trimers, while antibodies against the CD4 binding site were elicited by the WT and the 423I/M, 425N/K, and 431G/E trimers but not the 368D/R trimers. Furthermore, the CD4 binding-defective trimer variants stimulated less potent neutralizing antibody activity against neutralization-sensitive viruses than WT trimers. Overall, our studies do not reveal any potential negative effects imparted by the in vivo interaction between WT Env and primate CD4 on the generation of functional T cells and antibodies in response to soluble Env vaccination.
The region of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) envelope glycoprotein gp120 that engages its primary cellular receptor CD4 forms a site of vulnerability to neutralizing antibodies. The monoclonal antibody b12 exploits the conservation and accessibility of the CD4-binding site to neutralize many, though not all, HIV-1 isolates. To understand the basis of viral resistance to b12, we used the atomic-level definition of b12-gp120 contact sites to study a panel of diverse circulating viruses. A combination of sequence analysis, computational modeling, and site-directed mutagenesis was used to determine the influence of amino acid variants on binding and neutralization by b12. We found that several substitutions within the dominant b12 contact surface, called the CD4-binding loop, mediated b12 resistance, and that these substitutions resided just proximal to the known CD4 contact surface. Hence, viruses varied in key b12 contact residues that are proximal to, but not part of, the CD4 contact surface. This explained how viral isolates were able to evade b12 neutralization while maintaining functional binding to CD4. In addition, some viruses were resistant to b12 despite minimal sequence variation at b12 contact sites. Such neutralization resistance usually could be reversed by alterations at residues thought to influence the quaternary configuration of the viral envelope spike. To design immunogens that elicit neutralizing antibodies directed to the CD4-binding site, researchers need to address the antigenic variation within this region of gp120 and the restricted access to the CD4-binding site imposed by the native configuration of the trimeric viral envelope spike.
The broadly neutralizing antibody immunoglobulin G1 (IgG1) b12 binds to a conformationally conserved surface on the outer domain of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) gp120 envelope (Env) glycoprotein. To develop outer domain proteins (ODs) that could be recognized selectively by CD4-binding-site (CD4-BS) antibodies, membrane-anchored ODs were generated from an HIV-1 clade B virus, TA1 R3A, which was highly sensitive to neutralization by the IgG1 b12 antibody. A 231-residue fragment of gp120 (residues 252 to 482) linked to transmembrane regions from CD4 showed b12 binding comparable to that of the native Env spike as measured by flow cytometry. Truncation of the β20-β21 hairpin (residues 422 to 436 to Gly-Gly) improved overall protein expression. Replacement of the immunodominant central 20 amino acids of the V3 loop (residues 302 to 323) with a basic hexapeptide (NTRGRR) increased b12 reactivity further. Surface calculations indicated that the ratio of b12 epitope to exposed immunogenic surface in the optimized OD increased to over 30%. This OD variant [OD(GSL)(Δβ20-21)(hCD4-TM)] was recognized by b12 and another CD4-BS-reactive antibody, b13, but not by eight other CD4-BS antibodies with limited neutralization potency. Furthermore, optimized membrane-anchored OD selectively absorbed neutralizing activity from complex antisera and b12. Structurally designed membrane-anchored ODs represent candidate immunogens to elicit or to allow the detection of broadly neutralizing antibodies to the conserved site of CD4 binding on HIV-1 gp120.
Currently there is limited information about the quality of immune responses elicited by candidate human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) envelope glycoprotein (Env)-based immunogens in primates. Here we describe a comprehensive analysis of neutralizing antibody and T-cell responses obtained in cynomolgus macaques by three selected immunization regimens. We used the previously described YU2-based gp140 protein trimers administered in an adjuvant, preceded by two distinct priming strategies: either alphavirus replicon particles expressing matched gp140 trimers or gp120 core proteins stabilized in the CD4-bound conformation. The rationale for priming with replicon particles was to evaluate the impact of the expression platform on trimer immunogenicity. The stable core proteins were chosen in an attempt to expand selectively lymphocytes recognizing common determinants between the core and trimers to broaden the immune response. The results presented here demonstrate that the platform by which Env trimers were delivered in the priming (either protein or replicon vector) had little impact on the overall immune response. In contrast, priming with stable core proteins followed by a trimer boost strikingly focused the T-cell response on the core sequences of HIV-1 Env. The specificity of the T-cell response was distinctly different from that of the responses obtained in animals immunized with trimers alone and was shown to be mediated by CD4+ T cells. However, this regimen showed limited or no improvement in the neutralizing antibody responses, suggesting that further immunogen design efforts are required to successfully focus the B-cell response on conserved neutralizing determinants of HIV-1 Env.
Induction of broadly cross-reactive neutralizing antibodies (NAb) is an important goal for a prophylactic human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) vaccine. Some HIV-infected patients make a NAb response that reacts with diverse strains of HIV-1, but most candidate vaccines have induced NAb only against a subset of highly sensitive isolates. To better understand the nature of broad NAb responses that arise during natural infection, we screened patients for sera able to neutralize diverse HIV strains and explored the frequency and phenotype of their peripheral Envelope-specific B cells. We screened 113 HIV-infected patients of various clinical statuses for the prevalence of broad NAb. Sera able to neutralize at least four of five viral isolates were found in over one-third of progressors and slow progressors, but much less frequently in aviremic long-term nonprogressors. Most Env-specific antibody-secreting B cells were CD27hi CD38hi plasmablasts, and the total plasmablast frequency was higher in HIV-infected patients than in uninfected donors. We found that 0.0031% of B cells and 0.047% of plasmablasts secreted Env-specific immunoglobulin G (IgG) in an enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assay. We developed a novel staining protocol to label HIV-specific B cells with Env gp140 protein. A total of 0.09% of B cells were found to be Env-specific by this method, a frequency far higher than that indicated by ELISPOT assay. gp140-labeled B cells were predominantly CD27+ and surface IgG+. These data describe the breadth and titer of serum NAb and the frequency and phenotype of HIV-specific B cells in a cohort of patients with broad cross-neutralizing antibody responses that are potential goals for vaccines for HIV.
The surface HIV-1 exterior envelope glycoprotein, gp120, binds to CD4 on the target cell surface to induce the co-receptor binding site on gp120 as the initial step in the entry process. The binding site is comprised of a highly conserved region on the gp120 core, as well as elements of the third variable region (V3). Antibodies against the co-receptor binding site are abundantly elicited during natural infection of humans, but the mechanism of elicitation has remained undefined. In this study, we investigate the requirements for elicitation of co-receptor binding site antibodies by inoculating rabbits, monkeys and human-CD4 transgenic (huCD4) rabbits with envelope glycoprotein (Env) trimers possessing high affinity for primate CD4. A cross-species comparison of the antibody responses showed that similar HIV-1 neutralization breadth was elicited by Env trimers in monkeys relative to wild-type (WT) rabbits. In contrast, antibodies against the co-receptor site on gp120 were elicited only in monkeys and huCD4 rabbits, but not in the WT rabbits. This was supported by the detection of high-titer co-receptor antibodies in all sera from a set derived from human volunteers inoculated with recombinant gp120. These findings strongly suggest that complexes between Env and (high-affinity) primate CD4 formed in vivo are responsible for the elicitation of the co-receptor-site-directed antibodies. They also imply that the naïve B cell receptor repertoire does not recognize the gp120 co-receptor site in the absence of CD4 and illustrate that conformational stabilization, imparted by primary receptor interaction, can alter the immunogenicity of a type 1 viral membrane protein.
A major goal of HIV-1 vaccine research is to design novel candidates capable of neutralizing the vast array of viruses circulating in the human population. One approach is to base the vaccine upon the HIV-1 outer surface envelope glycoproteins to generate antibodies. However, during persistent infection in humans, the HIV-1 envelope glycoproteins have evolved structural features that limit the elicitation of broadly neutralizing antibodies. These immune “decoys” divert the antibody response resulting in virus subpopulations that can escape the host response. A potential means by which the virus elicits these decoy responses comes as a by-product of the entry process. Binding of the HIV-1 envelope glycoproteins to the primary receptor, human CD4, induces the formation of a second co-receptor binding site on the envelope glycoproteins, which then binds to another protein required for viral entry. Antibodies to the co-receptor binding site are generally ineffective at neutralizing HIV-1 patient isolates. Here, we demonstrate the mechanism by which antibodies to the HIV-1 co-receptor binding site are elicited in animals and humans injected with HIV-1 envelope glycoproteins and describe the implications of their formation regarding natural HIV-1 infection and vaccine design.