Rational Design of Envelope Identifies Broadly Neutralizing Human Monoclonal Antibodies to HIV-1

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Science  13 Aug 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5993, pp. 856-861
DOI: 10.1126/science.1187659

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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.


Cross-reactive neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) are found in the sera of many HIV-1–infected individuals, but the virologic basis of their neutralization remains poorly understood. We used knowledge of HIV-1 envelope structure to develop antigenically resurfaced glycoproteins specific for the structurally conserved site of initial CD4 receptor binding. These probes were used to identify sera with NAbs to the CD4-binding site (CD4bs) and to isolate individual B cells from such an HIV-1–infected donor. By expressing immunoglobulin genes from individual cells, we identified three monoclonal antibodies, including a pair of somatic variants that neutralized over 90% of circulating HIV-1 isolates. Exceptionally broad HIV-1 neutralization can be achieved with individual antibodies targeted to the functionally conserved CD4bs of glycoprotein 120, an important insight for future HIV-1 vaccine design.

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