Structure of RSV Fusion Glycoprotein Trimer Bound to a Prefusion-Specific Neutralizing Antibody

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Science  31 May 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6136, pp. 1113-1117
DOI: 10.1126/science.1234914

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Building Better Vaccines

Vaccines are one of the most effective tools to protect against infectious diseases. Unfortunately, vaccines for diseases with the highest global health burdens, such as HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis, are not yet available. Koff et al. (p. 1064) review the latest advances in vaccine development and why these particular diseases remain such a challenge. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a serious cause of morbidity and mortality in infants and young children worldwide. Although a prophylactic antibody is available for children at high risk, a vaccine is much needed. As a potential step toward this goal, McLellan et al. (p. 1113, published online 25 April) solved the cocrystal structure of a neutralizing antibody (D25) bound to the prefusion F protein of RSV. Knowledge of the structure of the prefusion protein should help to guide vaccine design and the development of additional therapeutics.


The prefusion state of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) fusion (F) glycoprotein is the target of most RSV-neutralizing activity in human sera, but its metastability has hindered characterization. To overcome this obstacle, we identified prefusion-specific antibodies that were substantially more potent than the prophylactic antibody palivizumab. The cocrystal structure for one of these antibodies, D25, in complex with the F glycoprotein revealed D25 to lock F in its prefusion state by binding to a quaternary epitope at the trimer apex. Electron microscopy showed that two other antibodies, AM22 and 5C4, also bound to the newly identified site of vulnerability, which we named antigenic site Ø. These studies should enable design of improved vaccine antigens and define new targets for passive prevention of RSV-induced disease.

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