Vaccination with peptide mimetics of the gp41 prehairpin fusion intermediate yields neutralizing antisera against HIV-1 isolates.
Eliciting a broadly neutralizing polyclonal antibody response against HIV-1 remains a major challenge. One approach to vaccine development is prevention of HIV-1 entry into cells by blocking the fusion of viral and cell membranes. More specifically, our goal is to elicit neutralizing antibodies that target a transient viral entry intermediate (the prehairpin intermediate) formed by the HIV-1 gp41 protein. Because this intermediate is transient, a stable mimetic is required to elicit an immune response. Previously, a series of engineered peptides was used to select a mAb (denoted D5) that binds to the surface of the gp41 prehairpin intermediate, as demonstrated by x-ray crystallographic studies. D5 inhibits the replication of HIV-1 clinical isolates, providing proof-of-principle for this vaccine approach. Here, we describe a series of peptide mimetics of the gp41 prehairpin intermediate designed to permit a systematic analysis of the immune response generated in animals. To improve the chances of detecting weak neutralizing polyclonal responses, two strategies were employed in the initial screening: use of a neutralization-hypersensitive virus and concentration of the IgG fraction from immunized animal sera. This allowed incremental improvements through iterative cycles of design, which led to vaccine candidates capable of generating a polyclonal antibody response, detectable in unfractionated sera, that neutralize tier 1 HIV-1 and simian HIV primary isolates in vitro. Our findings serve as a starting point for the design of more potent immunogens to elicit a broadly neutralizing response against the gp41 prehairpin intermediate.
Bianchi, E; Joyce, JG; Miller, MD; Finnefrock, AC; Liang, X; Finotto, M; Ingallinella, P; McKenna, P; Citron, M; Ottinger, E; Hepler, RW; Hrin, R; Nahas, D; Wu, C; Montefiori, D; Shiver, JW; Pessi, A; Kim, PS
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