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J Virol. 2003 Feb;77(4):2310-20.

Changes in the immunogenic properties of soluble gp140 human immunodeficiency virus envelope constructs upon partial deletion of the second hypervariable region.

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  • 1Chiron Corporation, Emeryville, CA 94608, USA.


Immunization of macaques with the soluble oligomeric gp140 form of the SF162 envelope (SF162gp140) or with an SF162gp140-derived construct lacking the central region of the V2 loop (DeltaV2gp140) results in the generation of high titers of antibodies capable of neutralizing the homologous human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), SF162 virus (Barnett et al. J. Virol. 75:5526-5540, 2001). However, the DeltaV2gp140 immunogen is more effective than the SF162gp140 immunogen in eliciting the generation of antibodies capable of neutralizing heterologous HIV-1 isolates. This indicates that deletion of the V2 loop alters the immunogenicity of the SF162gp140 protein. The present studies were aimed at identifying the envelope regions whose immunogenicity is altered following V2 loop deletion. We report that the antibodies elicited by the SF162gp140 immunogen recognize elements of the V1, V2, and V3 loops, the CD4-binding site, and the C1 and C2 regions on the homologous SF162 gp120. With the exception of the V1 and V2 loops, the same regions are recognized on heterologous gp120 proteins. Surprisingly, although a minority of the SF162gp140-elicited antibodies target the V3 loop on the homologous gp120, the majority of the antibodies elicited by this immunogen that are capable of binding to the heterologous gp120s tested recognize their V3 loops. Deletion of the V2 loop has two effects. First, it alters the immunogenicity of the V3 and V1 loops, and second, it renders the C5 region immunogenic. Although deletion of the V2 loop does not result in an increase in the immunogenicity of the CD4-binding site per se, the relative ratio of anti-CD4-binding site to anti-V3 loop antibodies that bind to the heterologous gp120s tested is higher in sera collected from the DeltaV2gp140-immunized animals than in the SF162gp140-immunized animals. Overall, our studies indicate that it is possible to alter the immunogenic structure of the HIV envelope by introducing specific modifications.

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