Journal of virology 2017 09 2791(20) pii 10.1128/JVI.01187-17
HIV broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) have been shown to occasionally display unusual virus neutralization profiles with nonsigmoidal slopes and plateaus at <100% neutralization against a variety of viruses. The significance of incomplete neutralization for the ability of bnAbs to mediate protective effects in vivo, however, is undetermined. In the current study, we selected two bnAbs, PGT121 and 3BNC117, as they incompletely neutralize the clade C simian-human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV) stock (SHIV-327c) at 85% and 70%, respectively, and performed a protection study in rhesus macaques. The animals were intravenously (i.v.) administered PGT121 or 3BNC117 at 10 and 2 mg/kg of body weight before being rectally challenged with a single high dose of SHIV-327c. PGT121 protected 6 out of 7 monkeys, while 6 out of 7 3BNC117-pretreated animals became infected, although with significantly delayed plasma viremia compared to the control animals. These data suggest that complete neutralization is not imperative for bnAbs to prevent infection but that with increasing levels of incomplete neutralization the sterilizing activity diminishes.IMPORTANCE Multiple antibodies have been identified that potently neutralize a broad range of circulating HIV strains. However, not every virus-antibody combination results in complete neutralization of the input virus, suggesting that a fraction of virus particles are resistant to antibody neutralization despite high antibody concentrations. This observation of "incomplete neutralization" is associated with nonsigmoidal neutralization curves plateauing below 100% neutralization, but the significance of the phenomenon for the ability of neutralizing antibodies to mediate protective effects in vivo is undetermined. In this study, we show that the broadly neutralizing antibody PGT121, which neutralized only up to 85% of the SHIV-327c challenge stock in vitro, protected 6 out of 7 rhesus macaques against infection while the antibody 3BNC117, which neutralized up to 70% of SHIV-327c in vitro, did not prevent, though it significantly delayed, establishment of infection, suggesting that with increasing levels of incomplete neutralization the ability of a bnAb to mediate sterilizing protection diminishes.