PloS one 2016 Nov 111(11) e0165874 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0165874
The objective of this study was to extend our previous research and to further characterize the humoral immune responses against HIV-1 p24, gp41 and the specific peptides carrying the immunodominant epitopes (IDEs) that react with human serum samples from HIV-1-infected individuals in China. We found that the majority (90.45%, 180/199) of the samples did not react with any of the three HIV-1 p24 peptides carrying IDEs, but did react with the recombinant full-length p24, suggesting that these samples tested in China were primarily directed against the conformational epitopes of HIV-1 p24. In contrast, 84.54% (164/194) of the samples reacted with at least one HIV-1 linear gp41 peptide, in particular the gp41-p1 peptide (amino acids 560-616). Both recently and long-term HIV-1-infected individuals displayed similar humoral immune responses against the recombinant gp41. However, samples from long-term HIV-1-infected subjects but not from recently infected subjects, showed a very strong reaction against the gp41-p1 peptide. The different response patterns observed for the two groups against the gp41 and the peptide gp41-p1 were statistically significant (P<0.01, Chi-square test). These results have direct relevance and importance for design of improved HIV-1 p24 detection assays and the gp41- based immunoassay that can be used to reliably distinguish recent and long-term HIV-1 infection.