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Increased, Durable B-Cell and ADCC Responses Associated with T-Helper Cell Responses to HIV-1 Envelope in Macaques Vaccinated with gp140 Occluded at the CD4 Receptor Binding Site.
Bogers, Willy M J M
Barnett, Susan W
Oostermeijer, Herman
Nieuwenhuis, Ivonne G
Beenhakker, Niels
Mortier, Daniella
Mooij, Petra
Koopman, Gerrit
Remarque, Edmund
Martin, Gregoire
Lai, Rachel Pei-Jen
Dey, Antu K
Sun, Yide
Burke, Brian
Ferrari, Guido
Montefiori, David
Martin, Loic
Davis, David
Srivastava, Indresh
Heeney, Jonathan L
Journal of virology 2017 Oct 01;91(19): e00811-17

Strategies are needed to improve the immunogenicity of HIV-1 envelope (Env) antigens (Ag) for more long-lived, efficacious HIV-1 vaccine-induced B-cell responses. HIV-1 Env gp140 (native or uncleaved molecules) or gp120 monomeric proteins elicit relatively poor B-cell responses which are short-lived. We hypothesized that Env engagement of the CD4 receptor on T-helper cells results in anergic effects on T-cell recruitment and consequently a lack of strong, robust, and durable B-memory responses. To test this hypothesis, we occluded the CD4 binding site (CD4bs) of gp140 by stable cross-linking with a 3-kDa CD4 miniprotein mimetic, serving to block ligation of gp140 on CD4 T cells while preserving CD4-inducible (CDi) neutralizing epitopes targeted by antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) effector responses. Importantly, immunization of rhesus macaques consistently gave superior B-cell ( < 0.001) response kinetics and superior ADCC ( < 0.014) in a group receiving the CD4bs-occluded vaccine compared to those of animals immunized with gp140. Of the cytokines examined, Ag-specific interleukin-4 (IL-4) T-helper enzyme-linked immunosorbent spot (ELISpot) assays of the CD4bs-occluded group increased earlier ( = 0.025) during the inductive phase. Importantly, CD4bs-occluded gp140 antigen induced superior B-cell and ADCC responses, and the elevated B-cell responses proved to be remarkably durable, lasting more than 60 weeks postimmunization. Attempts to develop HIV vaccines capable of inducing potent and durable B-cell responses have been unsuccessful until now. Antigen-specific B-cell development and affinity maturation occurs in germinal centers in lymphoid follicles through a critical interaction between B cells and T follicular helper cells. The HIV envelope binds the CD4 receptor on T cells as soluble shed antigen or as antigen-antibody complexes, causing impairment in the activation of these specialized CD4-positive T cells. We proposed that CD4-binding impairment is partly responsible for the relatively poor B-cell responses to HIV envelope-based vaccines. To test this hypothesis, we blocked the CD4 binding site of the envelope antigen and compared it to currently used unblocked envelope protein. We found superior and durable B-cell responses in macaques vaccinated with an occluded CD4 binding site on the HIV envelope antigen, demonstrating a potentially important new direction in future design of new HIV vaccines.

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