The Journal of biological chemistry 2017 07 25292(38) 15849-15858 doi 10.1074/jbc.M117.803056
The HIV-1 envelope (Env) is a glycoprotein consisting of a trimer of heterodimers containing gp120 and gp41 subunits that mediates virus entry and is a major target of broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) developed during infection in some individuals. The engagement of the HIV-1 gp120 glycoprotein to the host CD4 protein triggers conformational changes in gp120 that allow its binding to co-receptors and is necessary for virus entry to establish infection. Native-like HIV-1 Env immunogens representing distinct clades have been proposed to improve immunogenicity. In the present study, we examined the basis of resistance of an HIV-1 B/C recombinant Env (LT5.J4b12C) to non-neutralizing antibodies targeting CD4-induced Env epitopes in the presence of soluble CD4 (sCD4). Using native polyacrylamide gel shift assay and negative-stain EM, we found that the prefusion conformational state of LT5.J4b12C trimeric Env was largely unaffected in the presence of excess sCD4 with most Env trimers appearing to be in a ligand-free state. This resistance to CD4-induced conformational changes was associated with a lower affinity for CD4. Moreover, the LT5.J4b12C trimeric Env preferentially bound to the neutralizing antibodies compared with non-neutralizing antibodies. Taken together, we report on an HIV-1 B/C recombinant, native-like trimeric Env protein that is highly resistant to CD4-induced conformational changes but displays epitopes recognized by a diverse array of bnAbs. Such features make this B/C recombinant trimeric Env a useful addition to the pool of other recently identified native-like HIV-1 Env trimers suitable for use as antigenic bait for bnAb isolation, structural studies, and use as potential immunogens.