The RV144 clinical trial of a prime/boost immunizing regimen using recombinant canary pox (ALVAC-HIV) and two gp120 proteins (AIDSVAX B and E) was previously shown to have a 31.2% efficacy rate. Plasma specimens from vaccine and placebo recipients were used in an extensive set of assays to identify correlates of HIV-1 infection risk. Of six primary variables that were studied, only one displayed a significant inverse correlation with risk of infection: the antibody (Ab) response to a fusion protein containing the V1 and V2 regions of gp120 (gp70-V1V2). This finding prompted a thorough examination of the results generated with the complete panel of 13 assays measuring various V2 Abs in the stored plasma used in the initial pilot studies and those used in the subsequent case-control study. The studies revealed that the ALVAC-HIV/AIDSVAX vaccine induced V2-specific Abs that cross-react with multiple HIV-1 subgroups and recognize both conformational and linear epitopes. The conformational epitope was present on gp70-V1V2, while the predominant linear V2 epitope mapped to residues 165–178, immediately N-terminal to the putative α4β7 binding motif in the mid-loop region of V2. Odds ratios (ORs) were calculated to compare the risk of infection with data from 12 V2 assays, and in 11 of these, the ORs were ≤1, reaching statistical significance for two of the variables: Ab responses to gp70-V1V2 and to overlapping V2 linear peptides. It remains to be determined whether anti-V2 Ab responses were directly responsible for the reduced infection rate in RV144 and whether anti-V2 Abs will prove to be important with other candidate HIV vaccines that show efficacy, however, the results support continued dissection of Ab responses to the V2 region which may illuminate mechanisms of protection from HIV-1 infection and may facilitate the development of an effective HIV-1 vaccine.
In the RV144 trial, the estimated efficacy of a vaccine regimen against human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) was 31.2%. We performed a case–control analysis to identify antibody and cellular immune correlates of infection risk.
In pilot studies conducted with RV144 blood samples, 17 antibody or cellular assays met prespecified criteria, of which 6 were chosen for primary analysis to determine the roles of T-cell, IgG antibody, and IgA antibody responses in the modulation of infection risk. Assays were performed on samples from 41 vaccinees who became infected and 205 uninfected vaccinees, obtained 2 weeks after final immunization, to evaluate whether immune-response variables predicted HIV-1 infection through 42 months of follow-up.
Of six primary variables, two correlated significantly with infection risk: the binding of IgG antibodies to variable regions 1 and 2 (V1V2) of HIV-1 envelope proteins (Env) correlated inversely with the rate of HIV-1 infection (estimated odds ratio, 0.57 per 1-SD increase; P = 0.02; q = 0.08), and the binding of plasma IgA antibodies to Env correlated directly with the rate of infection (estimated odds ratio, 1.54 per 1-SD increase; P = 0.03; q = 0.08). Neither low levels of V1V2 antibodies nor high levels of Env-specific IgA antibodies were associated with higher rates of infection than were found in the placebo group. Secondary analyses suggested that Env-specific IgA antibodies may mitigate the effects of potentially protective antibodies.
This immune-correlates study generated the hypotheses that V1V2 antibodies may have contributed to protection against HIV-1 infection, whereas high levels of Env-specific IgA antibodies may have mitigated the effects of protective antibodies. Vaccines that are designed to induce higher levels of V1V2 antibodies and lower levels of Env-specific IgA antibodies than are induced by the RV144 vaccine may have improved efficacy against HIV-1 infection.
Despite the frequent observation of masking of HIV-1 neutralization epitopes, its extent has not previously been systematically assessed either for multiple epitopes presented by individual viruses or for individual epitopes across multiple viral strains. Using a recently developed method to identify amino acid sequence motifs required for recognition by HIV-1-neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), we visualized the patterns of masking of specific epitopes targeted by mAbs in a diverse panel of HIV-1 isolates. We also calculated a specific masking intensity score for each virus based on the observed neutralization activity of mAbs against the epitopes in the virus. Finally, we combined these data with estimates of the conservation of each mAb-targeted epitope in circulating HIV-1 strains to estimate the effective neutralization potential (EN) for each mAb. Focusing on the V3 loop of gp120 as a prototype neutralization domain, we found that the V3 loop epitope targeted by mAb 2219 is one of the least masked mAbs and it has the highest EN. Interestingly, although the V3 loop epitope targeted by mAb 3074 is present in over 87% of all viruses, it is 82.2% masked, so its EN is lower than that for mAb 2219. Notably, 50% of the viruses that mAb 3074 is able to neutralize are classified as subtype C viruses, while 70% or more of the viruses neutralized by mAbs 2219, 2557 or 447-52D are classified as subtype B. Thus, neutralization epitopes (in this case, in the V3 loop) have differential patterns of masking and also display distinct patterns of distribution among circulating HIV-1 viruses. Both factors combine to contribute to the practical vaccine value of any single epitope/mAb. Here we have developed a quantitative score for this value. These results have important implications for rational design of vaccines designed to induce neutralizing Abs by revealing epitopes that are minimally masked and maximally reactive with neutralizing Abs.
HIV-1; V3; variable loop; masking; epitope; neutralization
A biased usage of immunoglobulin (Ig) genes is observed in human anti-HIV-1 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) resulting probably from compensation to reduced usage of the VH3 family genes, while the other alternative suggests that this bias usage is due to antigen requirements. If the antigen structure is responsible for the preferential usage of particular Ig genes, it may have certain implications for HIV vaccine development by the targeting of particular Ig gene-encoded B cell receptors to induce neutralizing anti-HIV-1 antibodies. To address this issue, we have produced HIV-1 specific and non-HIV-1 mAbs from an infected individual and analyzed the Ig gene usage. Green-fluorescence labeled virus-like particles (VLP) expressing HIV-1 envelope (Env) proteins of JRFL and BaL and control VLPs (without Env) were used to select single B cells for the production of 68 recombinant mAbs. Ten of these mAbs were HIV-1 Env specific with neutralizing activity against V3 and the CD4 binding site, as well as non-neutralizing mAbs to gp41. The remaining 58 mAbs were non-HIV-1 Env mAbs with undefined specificities. Analysis revealed that biased usage of Ig genes was restricted only to anti-HIV-1 but not to non-HIV-1 mAbs. The VH1 family genes were dominantly used, followed by VH3, VH4, and VH5 among anti-HIV-1 mAbs, while non-HIV-1 specific mAbs preferentially used VH3 family genes, followed by VH4, VH1 and VH5 families in a pattern identical to Abs derived from healthy individuals. This observation suggests that the biased usage of Ig genes by anti-HIV-1 mAbs is driven by structural requirements of the virus antigens rather than by compensation to any depletion of VH3 B cells due to autoreactive mechanisms, according to the gp120 superantigen hypothesis.
The quaternary neutralizing epitope (QNE) of HIV-1 gp120 is preferentially expressed on the trimeric envelope spikes of intact HIV virions, and QNE-specific monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) potently neutralize HIV-1. Here we present the crystal structures of the Fabs of human mAb 2909 and macaque mAb 2.5B. Both mAbs have long beta hairpin CDR H3 regions >20Å in length that are each situated at the center of their respective antigen-binding sites. Computational analysis showed that the paratopes include the whole CDR H3, while additional CDR residues form shallow binding pockets. Structural modeling suggests a way to understand the configuration of QNEs and the antigen antibody interaction for QNE mAbs. Our data will be useful in designing immunogens that may elicit potent neutralizing QNE Abs.
HIV/AIDS; gp120; quaternary neutralizing epitope (QNE); monoclonal antibody (mAb); crystal structure; immunogen design; vaccine
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.
The V3 epitope is a known target for HIV-1 neutralizing antibodies (NAbs), and V3-scaffold fusion proteins used as boosting immunogens after gp120 DNA priming were previously shown to induce NAbs in rabbits. Here, we evaluated whether the breadth and potency of the NAb response could be improved when boosted with rationally designed V3-scaffold immunogens. Rabbits were primed with codon-optimized clade C gp120 DNA and boosted with one of five V3-cholera toxin B fusion proteins (V3-CTBs) or with double combinations of these. The inserts in these immunogens were designed to display V3 epitopes shared by the majority of global HIV-1 isolates. Double combinations of V3-CTB immunogens generally induced more broad and potent NAbs than did boosts with single V3-CTB immunogens, with the most potent and broad NAbs elicited with the V3-CTB carrying the consensus V3 of clade C (V3C-CTB), or with double combinations of V3-CTB immunogens that included V3C-CTB. Neutralization of tier 1 and 2 pseudoviruses from clades AG, B, and C and of peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC)-grown primary viruses from clades A, AG, and B was achieved, demonstrating that priming with gp120 DNA followed by boosts with V3-scaffold immunogens effectively elicits cross-clade NAbs. Focusing on the V3 region is a first step in designing a vaccine targeting protective epitopes, a strategy with potential advantages over the use of Env, a molecule that evolved to protect the virus by poorly inducing NAbs and by shielding the epitopes that are most critical for infectivity.
Any strategy for curing HIV infection must include a method to eliminate viral-infected cells. Based on our earlier proof-of-principle results targeting HIV-1 infected cells with radiolabeled antibody (mAb) to gp41 viral antigen, we embarked on identifying a suitable candidate mAb for preclinical development.
Among the several human mAbs to gp41 tested, mAb 2556 was found to have high affinity, reactivity with multimeric forms of gp41 present on both the surface of virus particles and cells expressing HIV-1 Env, and recognition of a highly conserved epitope of gp41 shared by all HIV-1 subtypes. Also, mAb 2556 was the best in competition with HIV-1+ serum antibodies, which is an extremely important consideration for efficacy in the treatment of HIV patients. When radiolabeled with alpha-emitting radionuclide 213-Bismuth (213Bi) - 213Bi-2556 efficiently and specifically killed ACH-2 human lymphocytes chronically infected with HIV-1, and HIV-1 infected human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (hPBMCs). The number of binding sites for 213Bi-2556 on the surface of the infected cells was >106. The in vivo experiments were performed in two HIV-1 mouse models – splenic and intraperitoneal. In both models, the decrease in HIV-1 infected hPBMCs from the spleens and peritoneum, respectively, was dose-dependent with the most pronounced killing of hPBMCs observed in the 100 µCi 213Bi-2556 group (P = 0.01). Measurement of the blood platelet counts and gross pathology of the treated mice demonstrated the lack of toxicity for 213Bi-2556.
We describe the preclinical development of a novel radiolabeled mAb reagent that could potentially be part of an HIV eradication strategy that is ready for translation into the clinic as the next step in its development. As viral antigens are very different from “self” human antigens - this approach promises high selectivity, increased efficacy and low toxicity, especially in comparison to immunotoxins.
The conserved CD4 binding site (CD4bs) on HIV-1 gp120 is a major target for vaccines. It is a priority to determine sites and structures within the CD4bs that are important for inclusion in vaccines. We studied a gp120 pocket penetrated by W100 of the potent CD4bs monoclonal antibody (mab), b12. We compared HIV-1 envelopes and corresponding mutants that carried blocked W100 pockets to evaluate whether other CD4bs mabs target this site.
All CD4bs mabs tested blocked soluble CD4 binding to gp120 consistent with their designation as CD4bs directed antibodies. All CD4bs mabs tested neutralized pseudovirions carrying NL4.3 wild type (wt) envelope. However, only b12 failed to neutralize pseudoviruses carrying mutant envelopes with a blocked W100 pocket. In addition, for CD4bs mabs that neutralized pseudovirions carrying primary envelopes, mutation of the W100 pocket had little or no effect on neutralization sensitivity.
Our data indicate that the b12 W100 pocket on gp120 is infrequently targeted by CD4bs mabs. This site is therefore not a priority for preservation in vaccines aiming to elicit antibodies targeting the CD4bs.
HIV; envelope; gp120; CD4 binding site; neutralization
Preferential usage of immunoglobulin (Ig) genes that encode antibodies (Abs) against various pathogens is rarely observed and the nature of their dominance is unclear in the context of stochastic recombination of Ig genes. The hypothesis that restricted usage of Ig genes predetermines the antibody specificity was tested in this study of 18 human anti-V3 monoclonal Abs (mAbs) generated from unrelated individuals infected with various subtypes of HIV-1, all of which preferentially used pairing of the VH5-51 and VL lambda genes. Crystallographic analysis of five VH5-51/VL lambda-encoded Fabs complexed with various V3 peptides revealed a common three dimensional (3D) shape of the antigen-binding sites primarily determined by the four complementarity determining regions (CDR) for the heavy (H) and light (L) chains: specifically, the H1, H2, L1 and L2 domains. The CDR H3 domain did not contribute to the shape of the binding pocket, as it had different lengths, sequences and conformations for each mAb. The same shape of the binding site was further confirmed by the identical backbone conformation exhibited by V3 peptides in complex with Fabs which fully adapted to the binding pocket and the same key contact residues, mainly germline-encoded in the heavy and light chains of five Fabs. Finally, the VH5-51 anti-V3 mAbs recognized an epitope with an identical 3D structure which is mimicked by a single mimotope recognized by the majority of VH5-51-derived mAbs but not by other V3 mAbs. These data suggest that the identification of preferentially used Ig genes by neutralizing mAbs may define conserved epitopes in the diverse virus envelopes. This will be useful information for designing vaccine immunogen inducing cross-neutralizing Abs.
A specific response of human serum neutralizing antibodies (nAb) to a conformational epitope as a result of vaccination of human subjects with the surface envelope glycoprotein (gp120) of HIV-1 has not previously been documented. Here, we used computational analysis to assess the epitope-specific responses of human subjects, which were immunized with recombinant gp120 immunogens in the VAX003 and VAX004 clinical trials. Our computational methodology—a variation of sieve analysis—compares the occurrence of specific nAb targeted conformational 3D epitopes on viruses from infected individuals who received vaccination to the occurrence of matched epitopes in the viruses infecting placebo subjects. We specifically studied seven crystallographically defined nAb targeted conformational epitopes in the V3 loop, an immunogenic region of gp120. Of the six epitopes present in the immunogens and targeted by known monoclonal neutralizing antibodies, only the one targeted by the anti-V3 nAb 2219 exhibited a significant reduction in occurrence in vaccinated subjects compared to the placebo group. This difference occurred only in the VAX003 Thailand cohort. No difference was seen between vaccinated and placebo groups for the occurrence of an epitope that was not present in the immunogen. Thus, it can be theorized that a specific 2219-like human neutralizing antibody immune response to AIDSVAX immunization occurred in the VAX003 cohort, and that this response protected subjects from a narrow subset of HIV-1 viruses circulating in Thailand in the 1990s and bearing the conformational epitope targeted by the neutralizing antibody 2219.
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.
A subset of the neutralizing anti-HIV antibodies recognize epitopes on the envelope protein gp120 of the human immunodeficiency virus. These epitopes are exposed during conformational changes when gp120 binds to its primary receptor CD4. Based on chemical modification of lysine and arginine residues followed by mass spectrometric analysis, we determined the epitope on gp120 recognized by the human monoclonal antibody 559/64-D, which was previously found to be specific for the CD4 binding domain. Twenty-four lysine and arginine residues in recombinant full-length glycosylated gp120 were characterized; the relative reactivities of two lysine residues and five arginine residues were affected by the binding of 559/64-D. The data show that the epitope is discontinuous and is located in the proximity of the CD4-binding site. Additionally, the reactivities of a residue that is located in the secondary receptor binding region and several residues distant from the CD4 binding site were also altered by Ab binding. These data suggest that binding of 559/64-D induced conformational changes which result in altered surface exposure of specific amino acids distant from the CD4-binding site. Consequently, binding of 559/64-D to gp120 affects not only the CD4-binding site, which is recognized as the epitope, but appears to have a global effect on surface exposed residues of the full-length glycosylated gp120.
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
One of the main challenges of developing an HIV-1 vaccine lies in eliciting immune responses that can overcome the antigenic variability exhibited by HIV. Most HIV vaccine development has focused on inducing immunity to conserved regions of the HIV envelope; however, new studies of the sequence-variable regions of the HIV-1 gp120 envelope glycoprotein have shown that there are conserved immunological and structural features in these regions. Recombinant immunogens that include these features may provide the means to address the antigenic diversity of HIV-1 and induce protective antibodies that can prevent infection with HIV-1.
The CD4 binding site (CD4bs) on the HIV-1 envelope plays a major role in determining the capacity of R5 viruses to infect primary macrophages. Thus, envelope determinants within or proximal to the CD4bs have been shown to control the use of low CD4 levels on macrophages for infection. These residues affect the affinity for CD4 either directly or indirectly by altering the exposure of CD4 contact residues. Here, we describe a single amino acid determinant in the V1 loop that also modulates macrophage tropism. Thus, we identified an E153G substitution that conferred high levels of macrophage infectivity for several heterologous R5 envelopes, while the reciprocal G153E substitution abrogated infection. Shifts in macrophage tropism were associated with dramatic shifts in sensitivity to the V3 loop monoclonal antibody (MAb), 447-52D and soluble CD4, as well as more modest changes in sensitivity to the CD4bs MAb, b12. These observations are consistent with an altered conformation or exposure of the V3 loop that enables the envelope to use low CD4 levels for infection. The modest shifts in b12 sensitivity suggest that residue 153 impacts on the exposure of the CD4bs. However, the more intense shifts in sCD4 sensitivity suggest additional mechanisms that likely include an increased ability of the envelope to undergo conformational changes following binding to suboptimal levels of cell surface CD4. In summary, we show that a conserved determinant in the V1 loop modulates the V3 loop to prime low CD4 use and macrophage infection.
HIV-1 gp41 envelope antibodies, which are frequently induced in HIV-1-infected individuals, are predominantly nonneutralizing. The rare and difficult-to-induce neutralizing antibodies (2F5 and 4E10) that target gp41 membrane-proximal epitopes (MPER) are polyspecific and require lipid binding for HIV-1 neutralization. These results raise the questions of how prevalent polyreactivity is among gp41 antibodies and how the binding properties of gp41-nonneutralizing antibodies differ from those of antibodies that are broadly neutralizing. In this study, we have characterized a panel of human gp41 antibodies with binding specificities within the immunodominant cluster I (gp41 amino acids [aa] 579 to 613) or cluster II (gp41 aa 644 to 667) for reactivity to autoantigens, to the gp140 protein, and with MPER peptide-lipid conjugates. We report that while none of the gp41 cluster I antibodies studied were polyspecific, all three gp41 cluster II antibodies bound either to lipids or autoantigens, thus showing the propensity of cluster II antibodies to manifest polyreactivity. All cluster II gp41 monoclonal antibodies (MAbs), including those that were lipid reactive, failed to bind to gp41 MPER peptide-lipid complexes. Cluster II antibodies bound strongly with nanomolar binding affinity (dissociation constant [Kd]) to oligomeric gp140 proteins, and thus, they recognize conformational epitopes on gp41 that are distinct from those of neutralizing gp41 antibodies. These results demonstrate that lipid-reactive gp41 cluster II antibodies are nonneutralizing due to their inability to bind to the relevant neutralizing epitopes on gp41.
The diversity of HIV-1 is a confounding problem for vaccine design, as the human immune response appears to favor poor or strain-specific responses to any given HIV-1 virus strain. A significant portion of this diversity is manifested as sequence variability in the loops of HIV-1's surface envelope glycoprotein. Here we show that the most variable sequence positions in the third variable (V3) loop crown cluster to a small zone on the surface of one face of the V3 loop ß-hairpin conformation. These results provide a novel visualization of the gp120 V3 loop, specifically demonstrating a surprising preponderance of conserved three-dimensional structure in a highly sequence-variable region. From a structural point of view, there appears to be less diversity in this region of the HIV-1 “principle neutralizing domain” than previously appreciated.
HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein gp41 undergoes large conformational changes to drive fusion of viral and target cell membranes, thereby exhibiting at least three distinct conformations during the viral entry process. Neutralizing antibodies against gp41 block HIV-1 infection by targeting its membrane proximal external region in a fusion-intermediate state. Here we report biochemical and structural evidence that non-neutralizing antibodies, capable of binding with high affinity to an immunodominant segment adjacent to the neutralizing epitopes in the membrane-proximal region, only recognize a gp41 conformation when membrane fusion is complete. We propose that these non-neutralizing antibodies are induced in HIV-1 infected patients by gp41 antigens in a triggered, postfusion form and contribute to production of ineffective humoral responses. These results have important implications for gp41-based vaccine design by rational strategies.
Although the sequence variable loops of the human immunodeficiency virus' (HIV-1) surface envelope glycoprotein (gp120) can exhibit good immunogenicity, characterizing conserved (invariant) cross-strain neutralization epitopes within these loops has proven difficult. We recently developed a method to derive sensitive and specific signature motifs for the three-dimensional (3D) shapes of the HIV-1 neutralization epitopes in the third variable (V3) loop of gp120 that are recognized by human monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). We used the signature motif method to estimate the conservation of these epitopes across circulating worldwide HIV-1 strains. The epitope targeted by the anti-V3 loop neutralizing mAb 3074 is present in 87% of circulating strains, distributed nearly evenly among all subtypes. The results for other anti-V3 Abs are: 3791, present in 63% of primarily non-B subtypes; 2219, present in 56% of strains across all subtypes; 2557, present in 52% across all subtypes; 447-52D, present in 11% of primarily subtype B strains; 537-10D, present in 9% of primarily subtype B strains; and 268-D, present in 5% of primarily subtype B strains. The estimates correlate with in vitro tests of these mAbs against diverse viral panels. The mAb 3074 thus targets an epitope that is nearly completely conserved among circulating HIV-1 strains, demonstrating the presence of an invariant structure hidden in the dynamic and sequence-variable V3 loop in gp120. Since some variable loop regions are naturally immunogenic, designing immunogens to mimic their conserved epitopes may be a promising vaccine discovery approach. Our results suggest one way to quantify and compare the magnitude of the conservation.
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.
Monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) that neutralize human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) have been isolated from HIV-1-infected individuals or animals immunized with recombinant HIV-1 envelope (Env) glycoprotein constructs. The epitopes of these neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) were shown to be located on either the variable or conserved regions of the HIV-1 Env and to be linear or conformational. However, one neutralizing MAb, 2909, which was isolated from an HIV-1-infected subject, recognizes a more complex, quaternary epitope that is present on the virion-associated functional trimeric Env spike of the SF162 HIV-1 isolate. Here, we discuss the isolation of 11 anti-HIV NAbs that were isolated from three rhesus macaques infected with the simian/human immunodeficiency virus SHIVSF162P4 and that also recognize quaternary epitopes. A detailed epitope mapping analysis of three of these rhesus antibodies revealed that their epitopes overlap that of the human MAb 2909. Despite this overall similarity in binding, however, differences in specific amino acid and glycosylation pattern requirements for MAb 2909 and the rhesus MAbs were identified. These results highlight similarities in the B-cell responses of humans and macaques to structurally complex neutralization epitopes on related viruses, HIV-1 and SHIV.
The V3 loop of the HIV-1 envelope (Env) glycoprotein gp120 was identified as the “principal neutralizing domain” of HIV-1, but has been considered too variable to serve as a neutralizing antibody (Ab) target. Structural and immunochemical data suggest, however, that V3 contains conserved elements which explain its role in binding to virus co-receptors despite its sequence variability. Despite this evidence of V3 conservation, the ability of anti-V3 Abs to neutralize a significant proportion of HIV-1 isolates from different subtypes (clades) has remained controversial.
HIV-1 neutralization experiments were conducted in two independent laboratories to test human anti-V3 monoclonal Abs (mAbs) against pseudoviruses (psVs) expressing Envs of diverse HIV-1 subtypes from subjects with acute and chronic infections. Neutralization was defined by 50% inhibitory concentrations (IC50), and was statistically assessed based on the area under the neutralization titration curves (AUC).
Using AUC analyses, statistically significant neutralization was observed by ≥1 anti-V3 mAbs against 56/98 (57%) psVs expressing Envs of diverse subtypes, including subtypes A, AG, B, C and D. Even when the 10 Tier 1 psVs tested were excluded from the analysis, significant neutralization was detected by ≥1 anti-V3 mAbs against 46/88 (52%) psVs from diverse HIV-1 subtypes. Furthermore, 9/24 (37.5%) Tier 2 viruses from the clade B and C standard reference panels were neutralized by ≥1 anti-V3 mAbs. Each anti-V3 mAb tested was able to neutralize 28–42% of the psVs tested. By IC50 criteria, 40/98 (41%) psVs were neutralized by ≥1 anti-V3 mAbs.
Using standard and new statistical methods of data analysis, 6/7 anti-V3 human mAbs displayed cross-clade neutralizing activity and revealed that a significant proportion of viruses can be neutralized by anti-V3 Abs. The new statistical method for analysis of neutralization data provides many advantages to previously used analyses.