AIDS research and human retroviruses 2017 01 31() doi 10.1089/AID.2016.0184
Antibodies to the carboxy-terminal constant (C5) region 5 of the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein gp120 have previously been associated with slow disease progression. This is one of the regions on gp120 that interact with the transmembrane glycoprotein, gp41, anchoring it to the viral and infected cell membrane. This study analyzed humoral responses to a novel heterodimeric peptide construct comprising the C5(501-512) region and a compatible region on gp41(732-744). Antibody levels to C5(501-512)/gp41(732-744) were associated with slow disease progression in a treatment naive historical longitudinal cohort from Norway (n = 32; p = .00001). Elevated anti-C5(501-512)/gp41(732-744) antibody levels correlated with moderate viral load (VL) (50-10,000 copies/ml) in a cohort, including natural viral suppressors (NVS) in the Unites States (n = 58; p = .002). Analysis of HIV-positive sera from treatment naive patients in Estonia (n = 300) showed an inverse correlation between anti-C5(501-512)/gp41(732-744) antibodies and VL when comparing VL 2,000-10,000 copies/ml with VL >10,000 (p = .050). Further mapping using peptide inhibition of antibody binding revealed that responses to the C5(501-506) subdomain correlated with preserved CD4 counts (n = 55; p = .0012) irrespective of VL in this cohort. The C5 region encompassing C5(501-506) shows sequence similarity to the shared epitope (SE) of certain HLA-DR associated with immune dysfunction. Partial antigenic cross-reactivity between SE and C5 is indicated by partial inhibition of NVS antibody binding using SE 15-mer peptide (median 65% inhibition), the C5(501-506) 6-mer peptide (79% inhibition), and binding of rheumatoid arthritis patient sera to both SE and C5 peptide sequences. The potential influence of these observations on HIV-1 pathogenesis remains to be determined.