HIV-1 broadly neutralizing antibody precursor B cells revealed by germline-targeting immunogen

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Science  25 Mar 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6280, pp. 1458-1463
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad9195

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Baby steps toward bNAbs

Some HIV-infected individuals develop heavily mutated, broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) that target HIV. Scientists aim to design vaccines that would elicit such antibodies. Jardine et al. report an important step toward this goal: They engineered an immunogen that could engage B cells from HIV-uninfected individuals that express the germline versions of the immunoglobulin genes harbored by a particular class of bNAbs. The frequencies of these B cells, their affinities for the immunogen, and structural analysis suggest that the immunogen is a promising candidate. Further shaping of the B cell response with subsequent immunogens may eventually elicit bNAbs in people.

Science, this issue p. 1458


Induction of broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) is a major HIV vaccine goal. Germline-targeting immunogens aim to initiate bnAb induction by activating bnAb germline precursor B cells. Critical unmet challenges are to determine whether bnAb precursor naïve B cells bind germline-targeting immunogens and occur at sufficient frequency in humans for reliable vaccine responses. Using deep mutational scanning and multitarget optimization, we developed a germline-targeting immunogen (eOD-GT8) for diverse VRC01-class bnAbs. We then used the immunogen to isolate VRC01-class precursor naïve B cells from HIV-uninfected donors. Frequencies of true VRC01-class precursors, their structures, and their eOD-GT8 affinities support this immunogen as a candidate human vaccine prime. These methods could be applied to germline targeting for other classes of HIV bnAbs and for Abs to other pathogens.

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