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PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e26473. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0026473. Epub 2011 Oct 21.

Anti-gp120 minibody gene transfer to female genital epithelial cells protects against HIV-1 virus challenge in vitro.

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  • 1Department of Cancer Immunology and AIDS, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.



Although cervico-vaginal epithelial cells of the female lower genital tract provide the initial defense system against HIV-1 infection, the protection is sometimes incomplete. Thus, enhancing anti-HIV-1 humoral immunity at the mucosal cell surface by local expression of anti-HIV-1 broadly neutralizing antibodies (BnAb) that block HIV-1 entry would provide an important new intervention that could slow the spread of HIV/AIDS.


This study tested the hypothesis that adeno-associated virus (AAV)-BnAb gene transfer to cervico-vaginal epithelial cells will lead to protection against HIV-1. Accordingly, a recombinant AAV vector that encodes human b12 anti-HIV gp120 BnAb as a single-chain variable fragment Fc fusion (scFvFc), or "minibody" was constructed. The secreted b12 minibody was shown to be biologically functional in binding to virus envelope protein, neutralizing HIV-1 and importantly, blocking transfer and infectivity of HIV-1(bal) in an organotypic human vaginal epithelial cell (VEC) model. Furthermore, cervico-vaginal epithelial stem cells were found to be efficiently transduced by the optimal AAV serotype mediated expression of GFP.


This study provides the foundation for a novel microbicide strategy to protect against sexual transmission of HIV-1 by AAV transfer of broadly neutralizing antibody genes to cervico-vaginal epithelial stem cells that could replenish b12 BnAb secreting cells through multiple menstrual cycles.

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