All HIV-1-infected individuals develop strain-specific neutralizing antibodies to their infecting virus, which in some cases mature into broadly neutralizing antibodies. Defining the epitopes of strain-specific antibodies that overlap conserved sites of vulnerability might provide mechanistic insights into how broadly neutralizing antibodies arise. We previously described an HIV-1 clade C-infected donor, CAP257, who developed broadly neutralizing plasma antibodies targeting an N276 glycan-dependent epitope in the CD4 binding site. The initial CD4 binding site response potently neutralized the heterologous tier 2 clade B viral strain RHPA, which was used to design resurfaced gp120 antigens for single-B-cell sorting. Here we report the isolation and structural characterization of CAP257-RH1, an N276 glycan-dependent CD4 binding site antibody representative of the early CD4 binding site plasma response in donor CAP257. The cocrystal structure of CAP257-RH1 bound to RHPA gp120 revealed critical interactions with the N276 glycan, loop D, and V5, but not with aspartic acid 368, similarly to HJ16 and 179NC75. The CAP257-RH1 monoclonal antibody was derived from the immunoglobulin-variable IGHV3-33 and IGLV3-10 genes and neutralized RHPA but not the transmitted/founder virus from donor CAP257. Its narrow neutralization breadth was attributed to a binding angle that was incompatible with glycosylated V5 loops present in almost all HIV-1 strains, including the CAP257 transmitted/founder virus. Deep sequencing of autologous CAP257 viruses, however, revealed minority variants early in infection that lacked V5 glycans. These glycan-free V5 loops are unusual holes in the glycan shield that may have been necessary for initiating this N276 glycan-dependent CD4 binding site B-cell lineage.
The conserved CD4 binding site on gp120 is a major target for HIV-1 vaccine design, but key events in the elicitation and maturation of different antibody lineages to this site remain elusive. Studies have shown that strain-specific antibodies can evolve into broadly neutralizing antibodies or in some cases act as helper lineages. Therefore, characterizing the epitopes of strain-specific antibodies may help to inform the design of HIV-1 immunogens to elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies. In this study, we isolate a narrowly neutralizing N276 glycan-dependent antibody and use X-ray crystallography and viral deep sequencing to describe how gp120 lacking glycans in V5 might have elicited these early glycan-dependent CD4 binding site antibodies. These data highlight how glycan holes can play a role in the elicitation of B-cell lineages targeting the CD4 binding site.