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Virology. 2005 Jan 5;331(1):33-46.

Analysis of the neutralizing antibody response elicited in rabbits by repeated inoculation with trimeric HIV-1 envelope glycoproteins.

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Department of Cancer Immunology and AIDS, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The elicitation of broadly neutralizing antibodies directed against the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) envelope glycoproteins, gp120 and gp41, remains a major challenge. Attempts to utilize monomeric gp120 as an immunogen to elicit high titers of neutralizing antibodies have been disappointing. Envelope glycoprotein constructs that better reflect the trimeric structure of the functional envelope spike have exhibited improved immunogenicity compared with monomeric gp120. We have described soluble gp140 ectodomain constructs with a heterologous trimerization motif; these have previously been shown to elicit antibodies in mice that were able to neutralize a number of HIV-1 isolates, among them primary isolate viruses. Recently, solid-phase proteoliposomes retaining the envelope glycoproteins as trimeric spikes in a physiologic membrane setting have been described. Here, we compare the immunogenic properties of these two trimeric envelope glycoprotein formulations and monomeric gp120 in rabbits. Both trimeric envelope glycoprotein preparations generated neutralizing antibodies more effectively than gp120. In contrast to monomeric gp120, the trimeric envelope glycoproteins elicited neutralizing antibodies with some breadth of neutralization. Furthermore, repeated boosting with the soluble trimeric formulations resulted in an increase in potency that allowed neutralization of a subset of neutralization-resistant HIV-1 primary isolates. We demonstrate that the neutralization is concentration-dependent, is mediated by serum IgG and that the major portion of the neutralizing activity is not directed against the gp120 V3 loop. Thus, mimics of the trimeric envelope glycoprotein spike described here elicit HIV-1-neutralizing antibodies that could contribute to a protective immune response and provide platforms for further modifications to improve the efficiency of this process.

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