Journal of virology

Conformational epitope consisting of the V3 and V4 loops as a target for potent and broad neutralization of simian immunodeficiency viruses.

PMID 23468483


Inducing neutralizing antibodies (NAb) is the key to developing a protective vaccine against human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1). To clarify the neutralization mechanism of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), we analyzed NAb B404, which showed potent and broad neutralizing activity against various SIV strains. In 4 SIVsmH635FC-infected macaques, B404-like antibodies using the specific VH3 gene with a long complementarity-determining region 3 loop and λ light chain were the major NAbs in terms of the number and neutralizing potency. This biased NAb induction was observed in all 4 SIVsmH635FC-infected macaques but not in 2 macaques infected with a SIV mix, suggesting that induction of B404-like NAbs depended on the inoculated virus. Analysis using Env mutants revealed that the V3 and V4 loops were critical for B404 binding. The reactivity to the B404 epitope on trimeric, but not monomeric, Env was enhanced by CD4 ligation. The B404-resistant variant, which was induced by passages with increasing concentrations of B404, accumulated amino acid substitutions in the C2 region of gp120. Molecular dynamics simulations of the gp120 outer domains indicated that the C2 mutations could effectively alter the structural dynamics of the V3/V4 loops and their neighboring regions. These results suggest that a conformational epitope consisting of the V3 and V4 loops is the target for potent and broad neutralization of SIV. Identifying the new neutralizing epitope, as well as specifying the VH3 gene used for epitope recognition, will help to develop HIV-1 vaccines.