Journal of virology 2017 07 1291(15) pii 10.1128/JVI.00176-17
Palivizumab, a humanized murine monoclonal antibody that recognizes antigenic site II on both the prefusion (pre-F) and postfusion (post-F) conformations of the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) F glycoprotein, is the only prophylactic agent approved for use for the treatment of RSV infection. However, its relatively low neutralizing potency and high cost have limited its use to a restricted population of infants at high risk of severe disease. Previously, we isolated a high-potency neutralizing antibody, 5C4, that specifically recognizes antigenic site Ø at the apex of the pre-F protein trimer. We compared in vitro and in vivo the potency and protective efficacy of 5C4 and the murine precursor of palivizumab, antibody 1129. Both antibodies were synthesized on identical murine backbones as either an IgG1 or IgG2a subclass and evaluated for binding to multiple F protein conformations, in vitro inhibition of RSV infection and propagation, and protective efficacy in mice. Although 1129 and 5C4 had similar pre-F protein binding affinities, the 5C4 neutralizing activity was nearly 50-fold greater than that of 1129 in vitro In BALB/c mice, 5C4 reduced the peak titers of RSV 1,000-fold more than 1129 did in both the upper and lower respiratory tracts. These data indicate that antibodies specific for antigenic site Ø are more efficacious at preventing RSV infection than antibodies specific for antigenic site II. Our data also suggest that site Ø-specific antibodies may be useful for the prevention or treatment of RSV infection and support the use of the pre-F protein as a vaccine antigen.IMPORTANCE There is no vaccine yet available to prevent RSV infection. The use of the licensed antibody palivizumab, which recognizes site II on both the pre-F and post-F proteins, is restricted to prophylaxis in neonates at high risk of severe RSV disease. Recommendations for using passive immunization in the general population or for therapy in immunocompromised persons with persistent infection is limited because of cost, determined from the high doses needed to compensate for its relatively low neutralizing potency. Prior efforts to improve the in vitro potency of site II-specific antibodies did not translate to significant in vivo dose sparing. We isolated a pre-F protein-specific, high-potency neutralizing antibody (5C4) that recognizes antigenic site Ø and compared its efficacy to that of the murine precursor of palivizumab (antibody 1129) matched for isotype and pre-F protein binding affinities. Our findings demonstrate that epitope specificity is an important determinant of antibody neutralizing potency, and defining the mechanisms of neutralization has the potential to identify improved products for the prevention and treatment of RSV infection.