Differential antibody responses to conserved HIV-1 neutralizing epitopes in the context of multivalent scaffolds and native-like gp140 trimers

Charles D. Morris, Parisa Azadnia, Natalia de Val, Nemil Vora, Andrew Honda, Erick Giang, Karen Saye-Francisco, Yushao Cheng, Xiaohe Lin, Colin J. Mann, Jeffrey Tang, Devin Sok, Dennis R. Burton, Mansun Law, Andrew B. Ward, Linling He, Jiang Zhu
mBio 2017 8:e00036-17


Broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) have provided valuable insights into the humoral immune response to HIV-1. While rationally designed epitope scaffolds and well-folded gp140 trimers have been proposed as vaccine antigens, a comparative understanding of their antibody responses has not yet been established. In this study, we probed antibody responses to the N332 supersite and the membrane-proximal external region (MPER) in the context of heterologous protein scaffolds and native-like gp140 trimers. Ferritin nanoparticles and fragment crystallizable (Fc) regions were utilized as multivalent carriers to display scaffold antigens with grafted N332 and MPER epitopes, respectively. Trimeric scaffolds were also identified to stabilize the MPER-containing BG505 gp140.681 trimer in a native-like conformation. Following structural and antigenic evaluation, a subset of scaffold and trimer antigens was selected for immunization in BALB/c mice. Serum binding revealed distinct patterns of antibody responses to these two bNAb targets presented in different structural contexts. For example, the N332 nanoparticles elicited glycan epitope-specific antibody responses that could also recognize the native trimer, while a scaffolded BG505 gp140.681 trimer generated a stronger and more rapid antibody response to the trimer apex than its parent gp140.664 trimer. Furthermore, next-generation sequencing (NGS) of mouse splenic B cells revealed expansion of antibody lineages with long heavy-chain complementarity-determining region 3 (HCDR3) loops upon activation by MPER scaffolds, in contrast to the steady repertoires primed by N332 nanoparticles and a soluble gp140.664 trimer. These findings will facilitate the future development of a coherent vaccination strategy that combines both epitope-focused and trimer-based approaches.


Technology Platform

Epitope Scaffolding

Research Topics

HIV-1 Vaccine Development

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