Innate immune recognition of glycans targets HIV nanoparticle immunogens to germinal centers

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Science  08 Feb 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6427, pp. 649-654
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat9120

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HIV glycans and nanoparticle vaccines

Synthetic nanoparticles have attracted widespread interest for vaccine design, but how the immune system generates a response to multimeric nanoparticles remains unclear. Tokatlian et al. studied immunity generated by HIV envelope antigens arranged in either multivalent nanoparticle forms or as single monomers (see the Perspective by Wilson). The nanoparticle HIV immunogens triggered greater antibody responses compared with the monomeric forms. Glycosylation appeared key for enhanced humoral immunity because it spurred binding to mannose-binding lectin, complement fixation, and antigen trafficking to follicular dendritic cells. The findings highlight how the innate immune system recognizes HIV nanoparticles and the importance of antigen glycosylation in the design of next-generation nano-based vaccines.

Science, this issue p. 649; see also p. 584


In vaccine design, antigens are often arrayed in a multivalent nanoparticle form, but in vivo mechanisms underlying the enhanced immunity elicited by such vaccines remain poorly understood. We compared the fates of two different heavily glycosylated HIV antigens, a gp120-derived mini-protein and a large, stabilized envelope trimer, in protein nanoparticle or “free” forms after primary immunization. Unlike monomeric antigens, nanoparticles were rapidly shuttled to the follicular dendritic cell (FDC) network and then concentrated in germinal centers in a complement-, mannose-binding lectin (MBL)–, and immunogen glycan–dependent manner. Loss of FDC localization in MBL-deficient mice or via immunogen deglycosylation significantly affected antibody responses. These findings identify an innate immune–mediated recognition pathway promoting antibody responses to particulate antigens, with broad implications for humoral immunity and vaccine design.

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