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J Virol. 2012 Nov;86(22):12039-52. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01650-12. Epub 2012 Aug 29.

A novel assay for antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity against HIV-1- or SIV-infected cells reveals incomplete overlap with antibodies measured by neutralization and binding assays.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology, Harvard Medical School, New England Primate Research Center, Southborough, Massachusetts, USA.


The resistance of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) to antibody-mediated immunity often prevents the detection of antibodies that neutralize primary isolates of HIV-1. However, conventional assays for antibody functions other than neutralization are suboptimal. Current methods for measuring the killing of virus-infected cells by antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) are limited by the number of natural killer (NK) cells obtainable from individual donors, donor-to-donor variation, and the use of nonphysiological targets. We therefore developed an ADCC assay based on NK cell lines that express human or macaque CD16 and a CD4(+) T-cell line that expresses luciferase from a Tat-inducible promoter upon HIV-1 or simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection. NK cells and virus-infected targets are mixed in the presence of serial plasma dilutions, and ADCC is measured as the dose-dependent loss of luciferase activity. Using this approach, ADCC titers were measured in plasma samples from HIV-infected human donors and SIV-infected macaques. For the same plasma samples paired with the same test viruses, this assay was approximately 2 orders of magnitude more sensitive than optimized assays for neutralizing antibodies-frequently allowing the measurement of ADCC in the absence of detectable neutralization. Although ADCC correlated with other measures of Env-specific antibodies, neutralizing and gp120 binding titers did not consistently predict ADCC activity. Hence, this assay affords a sensitive method for measuring antibodies capable of directing ADCC against HIV- or SIV-infected cells expressing native conformations of the viral envelope glycoprotein and reveals incomplete overlap of the antibodies that direct ADCC and those measured in neutralization and binding assays.

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