AIDS research and human retroviruses

HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein trimer immunogenicity elicited in the presence of human CD4 alters the neutralization profile.

PMID 25245278


The HIV-1 envelope glycoproteins (Env) gp120 and gp41 are the sole virally derived components on the surface of the virus. These glycoproteins mediate receptor binding and entry and are targets for neutralizing antibodies. The most highly validated protein region on Env that is a target for broadly neutralizing antibodies is the conserved CD4 binding site. Mimetics of Env have been used in attempts to elicit antibodies to the CD4 binding site. Some trimers, such as the soluble foldon trimers used here, elicit 5-10% of the Env-directed B cell response to this conserved region. As these trimers, or other Env versions, advance into clinical development, there is both considerable interest and concern as to whether binding to the abundant CD4 present on the surface of T cells and macrophages may blunt potentially protective antibody responses to this site. Here, we utilized rabbits transgenic for human CD4 to evaluate the role of CD4:Env interaction in vivo relative to the elicitation of Env-directed antibodies following immunization. We analyzed responses to trimers both capable and incapable of recognizing human CD4 with high affinity. We demonstrated that the presence of human CD4 in vivo did not significantly affect the overall elicitation of Env binding or CD4bs-directed antibodies. However, the presence of CD4 did reduce the capacity of elicited serum antibodies to neutralize the clade C isolate, MW965. Reduction of HXBc2 neutralization was associated with the CD4 binding-incompetent trimers. These results highlight an important consideration regarding CD4 binding-competent trimeric Env immunogens as they enter the clinic for human vaccine trials.