Analysis of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 gp41 membrane proximal external region arrayed on hepatitis B surface antigen particles

Structural Virology Section, Vaccine Research Center, NIAID, NIH, Bethesda, MD 20892-3005, USA.
Virology (Impact Factor: 3.28). 04/2008; 373(1):72-84. DOI: 10.1016/j.virol.2007.11.005
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Vaccine immunogens derived from the envelope glycoproteins of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) that elicit broad neutralizing antibodies remain an elusive goal. The highly conserved 30 amino-acid membrane proximal external region (MPER) of HIV gp41 contains the hydrophobic epitopes for two rare HIV-1 broad cross-reactive neutralizing antibodies, 2F5 and 4E10. Both these antibodies possess relatively hydrophobic HCDR3 loops and demonstrate enhanced binding to their epitopes in the context of the native gp160 precursor envelope glycoprotein by the intimate juxtaposition of a lipid membrane. The hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) S1 protein forms nanoparticles that can be utilized both as an immunogenic array of the MPER and to provide the lipid environment needed for enhanced 2F5 and 4E10 binding. We show that recombinant HBsAg particles with MPER (HBsAg-MPER) appended at the C-terminus of the S1 protein are recognized by 2F5 and 4E10 with high affinity compared to positioning the MPER at the N-terminus or the extracellular loop (ECL) of S1. Addition of C-terminal hydrophobic residues derived from the HIV-1 Env transmembrane region further enhances recognition of the MPER by both 2F5 and 4E10. Delipidation of the HBsAg-MPER particles decreases 2F5 and 4E10 binding and subsequent reconstitution with synthetic lipids restores optimal binding. Inoculation of the particles into small animals raised cross-reactive antibodies that recognize both the MPER and HIV-1 gp160 envelope glycoproteins expressed on the cell surface; however, no neutralizing activity could be detected. Prime:Boost immunization of the HBsAg-MPER particles in sequence with HIV envelope glycoprotein proteoliposomes (Env-PLs) did not raise neutralizing antibodies that could be mapped to the MPER region. However, the Env-PLs did raise anti-Env antibodies that had the ability to neutralize selected HIV-1 isolates. The first generation HBsAg-MPER particles represent a unique means to present HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein neutralizing determinants to the immune system.

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