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
The extreme diversity of HIV-1 strains presents a formidable challenge for HIV-1 vaccine design. Although antibodies (Abs) can neutralize HIV-1 and potentially protect against infection, antibodies that target the immunogenic viral surface protein gp120 have widely variable and poorly predictable cross-strain reactivity. Here, we developed a novel computational approach, the Method of Dynamic Epitopes, for identification of neutralization epitopes targeted by anti-HIV-1 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). Our data demonstrate that this approach, based purely on calculated energetics and 3D structural information, accurately predicts the presence of neutralization epitopes targeted by V3-specific mAbs 2219 and 447-52D in any HIV-1 strain. The method was used to calculate the range of conservation of these specific epitopes across all circulating HIV-1 viruses. Accurately identifying an Ab-targeted neutralization epitope in a virus by computational means enables easy prediction of the breadth of reactivity of specific mAbs across the diversity of thousands of different circulating HIV-1 variants and facilitates rational design and selection of immunogens mimicking specific mAb-targeted epitopes in a multivalent HIV-1 vaccine. The defined epitopes can also be used for the purpose of epitope-specific analyses of breakthrough sequences recorded in vaccine clinical trials. Thus, our study is a prototype for a valuable tool for rational HIV-1 vaccine design.
HIV-1's subtype C V3 loop consensus sequence exhibits increased resistance to anti-V3 antibody-mediated neutralization as compared to the subtype B consensus sequence. The dynamic 3D structure of the consensus C V3 loop crown, visualized by ab initio folding, suggested that the resistance derives from structural rigidity and non-β-strand secondary protein structure in the N-terminal strand of the β-hairpin of the V3 loop crown, which is where most known anti-V3 loop antibodies bind. The observation of either rigidity or non-β-strand structure in this region correlated with observed resistance to antibody-mediated neutralization in a series of chimeric pseudovirus (psV) mutants. The results suggest the presence of an epitope-independent, neutralization-relevant structural difference in the antibody-targeted region of the V3 loop crown between subtype C and subtype B, a difference that we hypothesize may contribute to the divergent pattern of global spread between these subtypes. As antibodies to a variable loop were recently identified as an inverse correlate of risk for HIV infection, the structure-function relationships discussed in this study may have relevance to HIV vaccine research.
A series of potently neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) that target quaternary epitopes on the native Env trimer have recently been described. A common feature shared by these antibodies is the critical involvement of sites in both the V2 and V3 variable domains in antibody recognition. In this study the gp120 variable-region determinants were mapped for eight rhesus macaque monoclonal antibodies (RhMAbs) possessing potently neutralizing activity specific for a quaternary target in SF162 Env and compared to those originally identified for human MAb 2909. These studies showed that determinants for the epitopes defined by the RhMAbs differed in both the V2 (positions 160, 167, and 169) and V3 (positions 313 and 315) regions from 2909, and in a number of cases, from each other. Attempts to reconstitute expression of these epitopes on the cell surface by cotransfecting Envs containing either the V2 or the V3 determinant of the epitope were not successful, suggesting that these epitopes were expressed on individual protomers in a trimer-dependent manner. Several of the V2 positions found to be critical for expression of these quaternary epitopes also significantly affected exposure and neutralization sensitivity of targets in the V3 and CD4-binding domains. These results demonstrated a considerable diversity in the fine structure of this class of epitopes and further suggested a potentially important relationship between the expression of such quaternary epitopes and V1/V2-mediated masking of immunodominant epitopes.
V3 loop is a major neutralizing determinant of the HIV-1 gp120. Using 3D structures of cholera toxin B subunit (CTB), complete V3 in the gp120 context and V3 bound to a monoclonal antibody (mAb) we designed two V3-scaffold immunogen constructs (V3-CTB). The full-length V3-CTB presenting the complete V3 in a structural context mimicking gp120, was recognized by the large majority of our panel of 24 mAbs. The short V3-CTB presenting a V3 fragment in the conformation observed in the complex with the 447-52D Fab, exhibited high affinity binding to this mAb. The immunogens were evaluated in rabbits using DNA-prime/protein-boost protocol. Boosting with the full-length V3-CTB induced high anti-V3 titers in sera that potently neutralize multiple HIV virus strains. The short V3-CTB was ineffective. The results suggest that very narrow antigenic profile of an immunogen is associated with poor Ab response. An immunogen with broader antigenic activity elicits robust Ab response.
Immunogen design; HIV-1; gp120; v3 loop; cholera toxin B subunit; neutralizing antibody; 447-52D; HIV vaccine
Epitopes, also known as antigenic determinants, are small clusters of specific atoms within macromolecules that are recognized by the immune system. Such epitopes can be targeted with vaccines designed to protect against specific pathogens. The third variable loop (V3 loop) of the HIV-1 pathogen's gp120 surface envelope glycoprotein can be a highly sensitive neutralization target. We derived sequence motifs for the V3 loop epitopes recognized by the human monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) 447-52D and 2219. Searching the HIV database for the occurrence of each epitope motif in worldwide viruses and correcting the results based on published WHO epidemiology reveal that the 447-52D epitope we defined occurs in 13% of viruses infecting patients worldwide: 79% of subtype B viruses, 1% of subtype C viruses, and 7% of subtype A/AG sequences. In contrast, the epitope we characterized for human anti-V3 mAb 2219 is present in 30% of worldwide isolates but is evenly distributed across the known HIV-1 subtypes: 48% of subtype B strains, 40% of subtype C, and 18% of subtype A/AG. Various assays confirmed that the epitopes corresponding to these motifs, when expressed in the SF162 Env backbone, were sensitively and specifically neutralized by the respective mAbs. The method described here is capable of accurately determining the worldwide occurrence and subtype distribution of any crystallographically resolved HIV-1 epitope recognized by a neutralizing antibody, which could be useful for multivalent vaccine design. More importantly, these calculations demonstrate that globally relevant, structurally conserved epitopes are present in the sequence variable V3 loop.
Human anti-V3 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) generated from HIV-1 infected individuals display diversity in the range of their cross-neutralization that may be related to their immunogenetic background. The study of the immunoglobulin (Ig) variable region gene usage of heavy chains have shown a preferential usage of the VH5-51 gene segment which was detected in 35% of 51 human anti-V3 mAbs. In contrast, human mAbs against other envelope regions of HIV-1 (anti-Env), including the CD4-binding domain, the CD4-induced epitope, and gp41 preferentially used the VH1-69 gene segment, and none of them used the VH5-51 gene. Furthermore, the usage of the VH4 family by anti-V3 mAbs was restricted to only one gene segment, VH4-59, while the VH3 gene family was used at a significantly lower frequency by all of the analyzed anti-HIV-1 mAbs. Multivariate analysis showed that usage of VH gene segments was significantly different between anti-V3 and anti-Env mAbs, and compared to antibodies from healthy subjects. In addition, the anti-V3 mAbs preferentially used the JH3 and D2-15 gene segments. The preferential usage of selected Ig gene segments and the characteristic pattern of Ig gene usage by anti-V3 mAbs can be related to the conserved structure of the V3 region.
Immunoglobulin gene usage; human monoclonal antibodies; anti-HIV-1 antibodies
Studies were performed to induce cross-clade neutralizing antibodies (Abs) by testing various combinations of prime and boost constructs that focus the immune response on structurally conserved epitopes in the V3 loop of HIV-1 gp120. Rabbits were immunized with gp120 DNA containing a V3 loop characterized by the GPGR motif at its tip, and/or with gp120 DNA with a V3 loop carrying the GPGQ motif. Priming was followed by boosts with a V3-fusion proteins (V3-FPs) carrying the V3 sequence from a subtype B virus (GPGR motif), and/or with V3 sequences from subtypes A and C (GPGQ motif). The broadest and most consistent neutralizing responses were generated when using a clade C gp120 DNA prime and with the V3B-FP boost. Immune sera displayed neutralizing activity in three assays against pseudoviruses and primary isolates from subtypes A, AG, B, C, and D. Polyclonal Abs in the immune rabbit sera neutralized viruses that were not neutralized by pools of human anti-V3 monoclonal Abs. Greater than 80% of the neutralizing Abs were specific for V3, showing that the immune response could be focused on a neutralizing epitope and that vaccine-induced anti-V3 Abs have cross-clade neutralizing activity.
HIV-1; Vaccine; Neutralizing antibodies; V3 loop; gp120; Pseudovirus; Immunization
The majority of global human immunodeficiency virus infections are caused by viruses characterized by a GPGQ motif at the tip of the V3 loop. Characterization of anti-V3 monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) that neutralize isolates with the GPGQ V3 motif is an important step in designing vaccines that will induce such Abs. Consequently, seven human anti-V3 MAbs derived from the cells of individuals infected with non-B-subtype viruses (anti-V3non-B MAbs) were generated from the cells of individuals from Africa infected with circulating recombinant forms CRF02_AG, CRF09_cpx, and CRF13_cpx, each of which contains a subtype A env gene. Sequence analysis of plasma viruses revealed a GPGQ motif at the apex of the V3 loop from six of the seven subjects and a GPGR motif from one subject. The MAbs were selected with fusion proteins (FP) containing V392UG037.8 or V3JR-CSF from subtype A or B, respectively. In virus binding assays, five of the seven (71%) anti-V3non-B MAbs bound to V3-FPs from both subtype A and subtype B, while only four of the nine (44%) anti-V3B MAbs recognized both V3-FPs. Using two neutralization assays, both the anti-V3non-B and the anti-V3B MAbs neutralized subtype B viruses with similar activities, while the anti-V3non-B MAbs exhibited a tendency toward both increased potency and breadth of neutralization against non-B viruses compared to anti-V3B MAbs. Statistical significance was not achieved, due in large measure to the sizes of the MAb panels, but the overall pattern of data strongly suggests that viruses with the GPGQ motif at the tip of the V3 loop induce anti-V3 Abs with broader cross-neutralizing activity than do viruses with the GPGR motif.
Sera from human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-infected North American patients recognized a fusion protein expressing a V3 loop from a clade B primary isolate virus (JR-CSF) but not from a clade A primary isolate virus (92UG037.8), while most sera from Cameroonian patients recognized both fusion proteins. Competition studies of consensus V3 peptides demonstrated that the majority of the cross-reactive Cameroonian sera contained cross-reactive antibodies that reacted strongly with both V3 sequences. V3-specific antibodies purified from all six cross-reactive sera examined had potent neutralizing activity for virus pseudotyped with envelope proteins (Env) from SF162, a neutralization-sensitive clade B primary isolate. For four of these samples, neutralization of SF162 pseudotypes was blocked by both the clade A and clade B V3 fusion proteins, indicating that this activity was mediated by cross-reactive antibodies. In contrast, the V3-reactive antibodies from only one of these six sera had significant neutralizing activity against viruses pseudotyped with Envs from typically resistant clade B (JR-FL) or clade A (92UG037.8) primary isolates. However, the V3-reactive antibodies from these cross-reactive Cameroonian sera did neutralize virus pseudotyped with chimeric Envs containing the 92UG037.8 or JR-FL V3 sequence in Env backbones that did not express V1/V2 domain masking of V3 epitopes. These data indicated that Cameroonian sera frequently contain cross-clade reactive V3-directed antibodies and indicated that the typical inability of such antibodies to neutralize typical, resistant primary isolate Env pseudotypes was primarily due to indirect masking effects rather than to the absence of the target epitopes.
Antibodies (Abs) against the V3 loop of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 gp120 envelope glycoprotein were initially considered to mediate only type-specific neutralization of T-cell-line-adapted viruses. However, recent data show that cross-neutralizing V3 Abs also exist, and primary isolates can be efficiently neutralized with anti-V3 monoclonal Abs (MAbs). The neutralizing activities of anti-V3 polyclonal Abs and MAbs may, however, be limited due to antigenic variations of the V3 region, a lack of V3 exposure on the surface of intact virions, or Ab specificity. For clarification of this issue, a panel of 32 human anti-V3 MAbs were screened for neutralization of an SF162-pseudotyped virus in a luciferase assay. MAbs selected with a V3 fusion protein whose V3 region mimics the conformation of the native virus were significantly more potent than MAbs selected with V3 peptides. Seven MAbs were further tested for neutralizing activity against 13 clade B viruses in a single-round peripheral blood mononuclear cell assay. While there was a spectrum of virus sensitivities to the anti-V3 MAbs observed, 12 of the 13 viruses were neutralized by one or more of the anti-V3 MAbs. MAb binding to intact virions correlated significantly with binding to solubilized gp120s and with the potency of neutralization. These results demonstrate that the V3 loop is accessible on the native virus envelope, that the strength of binding of anti-V3 Abs correlates with the potency of neutralization, that V3 epitopes may be shared rather than type specific, and that Abs against the V3 loop, particularly those targeting conformational epitopes, can mediate the neutralization of primary isolates.
The epitopes of the V3 domain of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) gp120 glycoprotein have complex structures consisting of linear and conformational antigenic determinants. Anti-V3 antibodies (Abs) recognize both types of elements, but Abs which preferentially react to the conformational aspect of the epitopes may have more potent neutralizing activity against HIV-1, as recently suggested. To test this hypothesis, human anti-V3 monoclonal Abs (MAbs) were selected using a V3 fusion protein (V3-FP) which retains the conformation of the third variable region. The V3-FP consists of the V3JR-CSF sequence inserted into a truncated form of murine leukemia virus gp70. Six human MAbs which recognize epitopes at the crown of the V3 loop were selected with the V3-FP. They were found to react more strongly with molecules displaying conformationally intact V3 than with linear V3 peptides. In a virus capture assay, these MAbs showed cross-clade binding to native, intact virions of clades A, B, C, D, and F. No binding was found to isolates from subtype E. The neutralizing activity of MAbs against primary isolates was determined in three assays: the GHOST cell assay, a phytohemagglutinin-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cell assay, and a luciferase assay. While these new MAbs displayed various degrees of activity, the pattern of cross-clade neutralization of clades A, B, and F was most pronounced. The neutralization of clades C and D viruses was weak and sporadic, and neutralization of clade E by these MAbs was not detected. Analysis by linear regression showed a highly significant correlation (P < 0.0001) between the strength of binding of these anti-V3 MAbs to intact virions and the percent neutralization. These studies demonstrate that human MAbs to conformation-sensitive epitopes of V3 display cross-clade reactivity in both binding to native, intact virions and neutralization of primary isolates.