Quantitative Assessment of HIV-1 Neutralization Epitope Masking

Department of Pharmacology, New York University School of Medicine, 550 First Avenue MSB 497, New York, NY 10016, USA.
Vaccine (Impact Factor: 3.62). 09/2011; 29(39):6736-41. DOI: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2010.12.052
Source: PubMed


Despite the frequent observation of masking of HIV-1 neutralization epitopes, its extent has not been previously 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 (E(N)) 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 E(N). 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 E(N) 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.

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    • "The presence of an epitope is not sufficient for neutralization due to the effects of epitope masking (i.e. evolutionary favorable ‘hiding’ of an epitope by other parts of gp120) [15]. To address this, we used MDE to obtain the improved estimates for masking of epitopes 2219 and 447-52D (see Methods, Text S1, and Figure S4). "
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    ABSTRACT: 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.
    PLoS ONE 02/2014; 9(2):e89987. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0089987 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    • "This makes it impossible for such HIV-1 strains to be neutralized by certain nAbs since epitope exposure is usually a prerequisite for neutralization by antibody molecules (for a review, see Pantophlet, 2010). Epitopes in the V3 loop that remain unmasked in many HIV-1 strains and are recognized by bnMabs have been identified using signature motifs of 2–4 residues and it has been suggested that cocktails of such epitopes may be good vaccine candidates (Agarwal et al., 2011). "
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    ABSTRACT: This review describes the structure-based reverse vaccinology approach aimed at developing vaccine immunogens capable of inducing antibodies that broadly neutralize HIV-1. Some basic principles of protein immunochemistry are reviewed and the implications of the extensive polyspecificity of antibodies for vaccine development are underlined. Although it is natural for investigators to want to know the cause of an effective immunological intervention, the classic notion of causality is shown to have little explanatory value for a system as complex as the immune system, where any observed effect always results from many interactions between a large number of components. Causal explanations are reductive because a single factor is singled out for attention and given undue explanatory weight on its own. Other examples of the negative impact of reductionist thinking on HIV vaccine development are discussed. These include 1) the failure to distinguish between the chemical nature of antigenicity and the biological nature of immunogenicity, 2) the belief that when an HIV-1 epitope is reconstructed by rational design to better fit a neutralizing Mab, this will produce an immunogen able to elicit Abs with the same neutralizing capacity as the Ab used as template for designing the antigen 3) the belief that protection against infection can be analysed at the level of individual molecular interactions although it has meaning only at the level of an entire organism. The numerous unsuccessful strategies that have been used to design HIV-1 vaccine immunogens are described and it is suggested that the convergence of so many negative experimental results, justifies the conclusion that reverse vaccinology is unlikely to lead to the development of a preventive HIV-1 vaccine. Immune correlates of protection in vaccinees have not yet been identified because this will become feasible only retrospectively once an effective vaccine exists.
    Frontiers in Immunology 07/2012; 3:194. DOI:10.3389/fimmu.2012.00194
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    • "This finding is interesting in light of a previous study showing that the effective neutralization potential of the 2219 antibody (i.e. the cross-subtype breath after controlling for V3 epitope masking) is the highest among tested V3-loop specific nAbs [20], [22]. Anti-variable loop antibodies have historically been viewed with skepticism of their vaccine potential because the epitopes they target are either easily escaped by frequent mutations (e.g. "
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    ABSTRACT: 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.
    PLoS ONE 11/2011; 6(11):e27279. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0027279 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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