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J Virol. 2006 May;80(10):4758-70.

Neutralizing antibodies do not mediate suppression of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 in elite suppressors or selection of plasma virus variants in patients on highly active antiretroviral therapy.

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Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


Neutralizing antibodies (NAb) against autologous virus can reach high titers in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-infected patients with progressive disease. Less is known about the role of NAb in HIV-1-infected patients with viral loads of <50 copies/ml of plasma, including patients on effective highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and elite suppressors, who control HIV-1 replication without antiretroviral therapy. In this study, we analyzed full-length env sequences from plasma viruses and proviruses in resting CD4(+) T cells of HAART-treated patients, elite suppressors, and untreated HIV-1-infected patients with progressive disease. For each patient group, we assessed plasma virus neutralization by autologous, contemporaneous plasma. The degree of env diversity, the number of N-linked glycosylation sites, and the lengths of variable loops were all lower in elite suppressors than in HAART-treated and untreated viremic patients. Both elite suppressors and HAART-treated patients had lower titers of NAb against HIV-1 lab strains than those of untreated viremic patients. Surprisingly, titers of NAb against autologous, contemporaneous plasma viruses were similarly low in chronic progressors, elite suppressors, and HAART-treated patients. In elite suppressors and HAART-treated patients, titers of NAb against autologous plasma viruses also did not differ significantly from titers against autologous proviruses from resting CD4(+) T cells. These results suggest that high-titer NAb are not required for maintenance of viral suppression in elite suppressors and that NAb do not select plasma virus variants in most HAART-treated patients. Both drug-mediated and natural suppression of HIV-1 replication to levels below 50 copies/ml may limit the stimulation and maintenance of effective NAb responses.

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