Research Article

Structural Basis for Broad and Potent Neutralization of HIV-1 by Antibody VRC01

Science  13 Aug 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5993, pp. 811-817
DOI: 10.1126/science.1192819

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Designer Anti-HIV

Developing a protective HIV vaccine remains a top global health priority. One strategy to identify potential vaccine candidates is to isolate broadly neutralizing antibodies from infected individuals and then attempt to elicit the same antibody response through vaccination (see the Perspective by Burton and Weiss). Wu et al. (p. 856, published online 8 July) now report the identification of three broadly neutralizing antibodies, isolated from an HIV-1–infected individual, that exhibited great breadth and potency of neutralization and were specific for the co-receptor CD4-binding site of the glycoprotein 120 (gp120), part of the viral Env spike. Zhou et al. (p. 811, published online 8 July) analyzed the crystal structure for one of these antibodies, VRC01, in complex with an HIV-1 gp120. VRC01 focuses its binding onto a conformationally invariant domain that is the site of initial CD4 attachment, which allows the antibody to overcome the glycan and conformational masking that diminishes the neutralization potency of most CD4-binding-site antibodies. The epitopes recognized by these antibodies suggest potential immunogens that can inform vaccine design.

Abstract

During HIV-1 infection, antibodies are generated against the region of the viral gp120 envelope glycoprotein that binds CD4, the primary receptor for HIV-1. Among these antibodies, VRC01 achieves broad neutralization of diverse viral strains. We determined the crystal structure of VRC01 in complex with a human immunodeficiency virus HIV-1 gp120 core. VRC01 partially mimics CD4 interaction with gp120. A shift from the CD4-defined orientation, however, focuses VRC01 onto the vulnerable site of initial CD4 attachment, allowing it to overcome the glycan and conformational masking that diminishes the neutralization potency of most CD4-binding-site antibodies. To achieve this recognition, VRC01 contacts gp120 mainly through immunoglobulin V-gene regions substantially altered from their genomic precursors. Partial receptor mimicry and extensive affinity maturation thus facilitate neutralization of HIV-1 by natural human antibodies.

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