Journal of virology 2017 05 10() pii 10.1128/JVI.00401-17
Evaluation of the epitope specificities, location (systemic, mucosal) and effector function of antibodies elicited by novel HIV-1 immunogens engineered to improve exposure of specific epitopes is critical for HIV-1 vaccine development. Utilizing an array of humoral assays, we evaluated the magnitude, epitope specificity, avidity and function of systemic and mucosal immune responses elicited by a vaccine regimen containing Env cross-linked to a CD4 mimetic miniprotein (gp140-M64U1) in rhesus macaques. Crosslinking of gp140 Env with M64U1 resulted in an earlier increase in both the magnitude and avidity of the IgG binding response compared to Env protein alone. Notably, binding IgG responses at an early time point correlated with Antibody Dependent Cellular Cytotoxicity (ADCC) function at the peak immunity time point, which was higher for the crosslinked Env group compared to the Env group alone. In addition, the crosslinked Env group developed higher IgG responses against a linear epitope in the C1 gp120 region of the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein. These data demonstrate that structural modification of the HIV-1 envelope immunogen by crosslinking gp140 with the CD4 mimetic M64U1 elicited an earlier increase of binding antibody responses and altered the specificity of the IgG responses that correlated with the rise of subsequent antibody-mediated antiviral functions.IMPORTANCE The development of an efficacious HIV-1 vaccine remains a global priority to prevent new cases of HIV-1 infection. Of the six HIV-1 efficacy trials to date, only one has demonstrated partial efficacy, and the immune correlates analysis of this trial revealed a role for binding antibodies and antibody Fc mediated effector functions. New HIV-1 envelope immunogens are being engineered to selectively expose the most vulnerable and conserved sites on the HIV-1 envelope with the goal of eliciting antiviral antibodies. Evaluation of the humoral responses elicited by these novel immunogen designs in nonhuman primates is critical for understanding how to improve upon immunogen design to inform further testing in human clinical trials. Our results demonstrate that Env structural modifications that aim to mimic the CD4 bound conformation can result in earlier antibody elicitation, altered epitope specificity and increased antiviral function post immunization.