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J Immunol. 2009 Aug 15;183(4):2708-17. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0901068. Epub 2009 Jul 22.

HIV-1 envelope induces memory B cell responses that correlate with plasma antibody levels after envelope gp120 protein vaccination or HIV-1 infection.

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Duke Human Vaccine Institute, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


Successful vaccines (i.e., tetanus and diphtheria) can induce long-lived Ab levels that are maintained by bone marrow plasma cells and plasma Ab levels do not correlate with numbers of blood memory B cells. Destruction of CD4(+) T cells early in HIV-1 acute infection may result in insufficient induction of neutralizing Ab responses; thus, an HIV-1 vaccine should elicit high levels of durable Abs by long-lived plasma cells to be protective. We asked if HIV-1 envelope-specific memory responses were sustained by memory B cells in the settings of HIV-1 gp120 envelope vaccination and chronic HIV-1 infection. Levels of anti-HIV-1 envelope plasma Abs and memory B cells were found to correlate in both settings. Moreover, whereas the expected half-life of plasma Ab levels to protein vaccines was >10 years when maintained by long-lived plasma cells, anti-envelope Ab level half-lives were approximately 33-81 wk in plasma from antiretroviral drug-treated HIV-1(+) subjects. In contrast, anti-p55 Gag Ab level half-life was 648 wk, and Ab titers against influenza did not decay in-between yearly or biennial influenza vaccine boosts in the same patients. These data demonstrated that HIV-1 envelope induces predominantly short-lived memory B cell-dependent plasma Abs in the settings of envelope vaccination and HIV-1 infection. The inability to generate high titers of long-lived anti-envelope Abs is a major hurdle to overcome for the development of a successful HIV-1 vaccine.

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