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J Virol. 2005 Sep;79(17):11214-24.

Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 subtype B ancestral envelope protein is functional and elicits neutralizing antibodies in rabbits similar to those elicited by a circulating subtype B envelope.

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1
Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, Washington, USA.

Abstract

Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) is a difficult target for vaccine development, in part because of its ever-expanding genetic diversity and attendant capacity to escape immunologic recognition. Vaccine efficacy might be improved by maximizing immunogen antigenic similarity to viruses likely to be encountered by vaccinees. To this end, we designed a prototype HIV-1 envelope vaccine using a deduced ancestral state for the env gene. The ancestral state reconstruction method was shown to be >95% accurate by computer simulation and 99.8% accurate when estimating the known inoculum used in an experimental infection study in rhesus macaques. Furthermore, the deduced ancestor gene differed from the set of sequences used to derive the ancestor by an average of 12.3%, while these latter sequences were an average of 17.3% different from each other. A full-length ancestral subtype B HIV-1 env gene was constructed and shown to produce a glycoprotein of 160 kDa that bound and fused with cells expressing the HIV-1 coreceptor CCR5. This Env was also functional in a virus pseudotype assay. When either gp160- or gp140-expressing plasmids and recombinant gp120 were used to immunize rabbits in a DNA prime-protein boost regimen, the artificial gene induced immunoglobulin G antibodies capable of weakly neutralizing heterologous primary HIV-1 strains. The results were similar for rabbits immunized in parallel with a natural isolate, HIV-1 SF162. Further design efforts to better present conserved neutralization determinants are warranted.

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