Priming with DNA Expressing Trimeric HIV V1V2 Alters the Immune Hierarchy Favoring the Development of V2-Specific Antibodies in Rhesus Macaques.
The RV144 vaccine trial revealed a correlation between reduced risk of HIV infection and the level of nonneutralizing-antibody (Ab) responses targeting specific epitopes in the second variable domain (V2) of the HIV gp120 envelope (Env) protein, suggesting this region as a target for vaccine development. To favor induction of V2-specific Abs, we developed a vaccine regimen that included priming with DNA expressing an HIV V1V2 trimeric scaffold immunogen followed by booster immunizations with a combination of DNA and protein in rhesus macaques. Priming vaccination with DNA expressing the HIV recombinant subtype CRF01_AE V1V2 scaffold induced higher and broader V2-specific Ab responses than vaccination with DNA expressing CRF01_AE gp145 Env. Abs recognizing the V2 peptide that was reported as a critical target in RV144 developed only after the priming immunization with V1V2 DNA. The V2-specific Abs showed several nonneutralizing Fc-mediated functions, including ADCP and C1q binding. Importantly, robust V2-specific Abs were maintained upon boosting with gp145 DNA and gp120 protein coimmunization. In conclusion, priming with DNA expressing the trimeric V1V2 scaffold alters the hierarchy of humoral immune responses to V2 region epitopes, providing a method for more efficient induction and maintenance of V2-specific Env Abs associated with reduced risk of HIV infection.IMPORTANCE The aim of this work was to design and test a vaccine regimen focusing the immune response on targets associated with infection prevention. We demonstrated that priming with a DNA vaccine expressing only the HIV Env V1V2 region induces Ab responses targeting the critical region in V2 associated with protection. This work shows that V1V2 scaffold DNA priming immunization provides a method to focus immune responses to the desired target region, in the absence of immune interference by other epitopes. This induced immune responses with improved recognition of epitopes important for protective immunity, namely, V2-specific humoral immune responses inversely correlating with HIV risk of infection in the RV144 trial.
Devasundaram, S; Rosati, M; Valentin, A; Weiss, S; Itri, V; Trinh, HV; Bear, J; Chowdhury, B; LaBranche, CC; Montefiori, D; Ferrari, G; Rao, M; Kong, X-P; Zolla-Pazner, S; Pavlakis, GN; Felber, BK
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