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Virology. 2006 Aug 15;352(1):74-85. Epub 2006 May 24.

Antigenic properties of a transport-competent influenza HA/HIV Env chimeric protein.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology and Emory Vaccine Center, Emory University School of Medicine, 1510 Clifton Road, Room 3086 Rollins Research Center, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


The transmembrane subunit (gp41) of the HIV Env glycoprotein contains conserved neutralizing epitopes which are not well-exposed in wild-type HIV Env proteins. To enhance the exposure of these epitopes, a chimeric protein, HA/gp41, in which the gp41 of HIV-1 89.6 envelope protein was fused to the C-terminus of the HA1 subunit of the influenza HA protein, was constructed. Characterization of protein expression showed that the HA/gp41 chimeric proteins were expressed on cell surfaces and formed trimeric oligomers, as found in the HIV Env as well as influenza HA proteins. In addition, the HA/gp41 chimeric protein expressed on the cell surface can also be cleaved into 2 subunits by trypsin treatment, similar to the influenza HA. Moreover, the HA/gp41 chimeric protein was found to maintain a pre-fusion conformation. Interestingly, the HA/gp41 chimeric proteins on cell surfaces exhibited increased reactivity to monoclonal antibodies against the HIV Env gp41 subunit compared with the HIV-1 envelope protein, including the two broadly neutralizing monoclonal antibodies 2F5 and 4E10. Immunization of mice with a DNA vaccine expressing the HA/gp41 chimeric protein induced antibodies against the HIV gp41 protein and these antibodies exhibit neutralizing activity against infection by an HIV SF162 pseudovirus. These results demonstrate that the construction of such chimeric proteins can provide enhanced exposure of conserved epitopes in the HIV Env gp41 and may represent a novel vaccine design strategy for inducing broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV.

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