The identification of HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env) structures that can generate broadly neutralizing antibodies (BNAbs) is pivotal to the development of a successful vaccine against HIV-1 aimed at eliciting effective humoral immune responses. To that end, the production of novel Env structure(s) that might induce BNAbs by presentation of conserved epitopes, which are otherwise occluded, is critical. Here, we focus on a structure that stabilizes Env in a conformation representative of its primary (CD4) receptor-bound state, thereby exposing highly conserved "CD4 induced" (CD4i) epitope(s) known to be important for co-receptor binding and subsequent virus infection. A CD4-mimetic miniprotein, miniCD4 (M64U1-SH), was produced and covalently complexed to recombinant, trimeric gp140 envelope glycoprotein (gp140) using site-specific disulfide linkages. The resulting gp140-miniCD4 (gp140-S-S-M64U1) complex was recognized by CD4i antibodies and the HIV-1 co-receptor, CCR5. The gp140-miniCD4 complex elicited the highest titers of CD4i binding antibodies as well as enhanced neutralizing antibodies against Tier 1 viruses as compared to gp140 protein alone following immunization of rabbits. Neutralization against HIV-2(7312/V434M) and additional serum mapping confirm the specific elicitation of antibodies directed to the CD4i epitope(s). These results demonstrate the utility of structure-based approach in improving immunogenic response against specific region, such as the CD4i epitope(s) here, and its potential role in vaccine application.
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"To do so, we generated four SF162 gp120 mutants: gp120ΔV3 (to map reactivity to V3 loop), gp120ΔV1V2 (to map reactivity to V1V2 loop), gp120D368R (to map reactivity to CD4-binding site, CD4BS) – and gp120I420R (to map reactivity to CD4-induced, CD4i, site) –. These proteins were transiently expressed in HEK 293 cells and purified using the same protocol described for the gp120/gp140 immunogens. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Entry of HIV-1 into target cells requires binding of the viral envelope glycoprotein (Env) to cellular receptors and subsequent conformational changes that culminates in fusion of viral and target cell membranes. Recent structural information has revealed that these conformational transitions are regulated by three conserved but potentially flexible layers stacked between the receptor-binding domain (gp120) and the fusion arm (gp41) of Env. We hypothesized that artificial insertion of a covalent bond will 'snap' Env into a conformation that is less mobile and stably expose conserved sites. Therefore, we analyzed the interface between these gp120 layers (layers 1, 2 and 3) and identified residues that may form disulfide bonds when substituted with cysteines. We subsequently probed the structures of the resultant mutant gp120 proteins by assaying their binding to a variety of ligands using Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) assay. We found that a single disulfide bond strategically inserted between the highly conserved layers 1 and 2 (C65-C115) is able to 'lock' gp120 in a CD4 receptor bound conformation (in the absence of CD4), as indicated by the lower dissociation constant (Kd) for the CD4-induced (CD4i) epitope binding 17b antibody. When disulfide-stabilized monomeric (gp120) and trimeric (gp140) Envs were used to immunize rabbits, they were found to elicit a higher proportion of antibodies directed against both CD4i and CD4 binding site epitopes than the wild-type proteins. These results demonstrate that structure-guided stabilization of inter-layer interactions within HIV-1 Env can be used to expose conserved epitopes and potentially overcome the sequence diversity of these molecules.
PLoS ONE 10/2013; 8(10):e76139. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0076139 · 3.23 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Few broad neutralizing antibodies targeting determinants of the HIV-1 surface envelope glycoprotein (gp120) involved in sequential binding to host CD4 and chemokine receptors have been characterized. While these epitopes show low diversity among various isolates, HIV-1 employs many strategies to evade humoral immune response toward these sensitive sites, including a carbohydrate shield, low accessibility to these buried cavities, and conformational masking. Using trimeric gp140, free or bound to a CD4 mimic, as immunogens in llamas, we selected a panel of broadly neutralizing single-domain antibodies (sdAbs) that bind either to the CD4 or to the co-receptor binding sites (CD4BS and CoRBS, respectively). When analyzed as monomers or as homo- or hetero-multimers, the best sdAb candidates could not only neutralize viruses carrying subtype B envelopes, corresponding to the Env molecule used for immunization and selection, but were also efficient in neutralizing a broad panel of envelopes from subtypes A, C, G, CRF01_AE and CRF02_AG, including Tier 3 viruses. Interestingly, sdAb multimers exhibited a broader neutralizing activity spectrum than the parental sdAb monomers. The extreme stability and high recombinant production yield combined to their broad neutralization capacity make these sdAbs new potential microbicide candidates for HIV-1 transmission prevention.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Ligand affinities can be optimized by interfacial cavity filling. A hollow (Phe43 cavity) between HIV-1 surface protein (gp120) and cluster of differentiation 4 (CD4) receptor, extends beyond residue phenylalanine 43 of CD4 and cannot be fully accessed by natural amino acids. To increase HIV-1 gp120 affinity for a family of CD4-mimetic miniproteins (miniCD4s), we targeted the gp120 Phe43 cavity with eleven non-natural phenylalanine derivatives, introduced into a miniCD4 named M48 (1). The best derivative named M48U12 (13) binds HIV-1 YU2 gp120 with 8 pM affinity, and shows potent HIV-1 neutralization. It contained a methylcyclohexyl derivative of 4-aminophenylalanine and its co-crystal structure with gp120 revealed the cyclohexane ring buried within the gp120 hydrophobic core but able to assume multiple orientations in the binding pocket, and an aniline nitrogen potentially providing a focus for further improvement. Altogether, the results provide a framework for filling the interfacial Phe43 cavity to enhance miniCD4 affinity.