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Vaccine. 2009 Dec 11;28(2):352-60. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2009.10.040. Epub 2009 Oct 29.

The use of immune complex vaccines to enhance antibody responses against neutralizing epitopes on HIV-1 envelope gp120.

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Department of Pathology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY 10010, United States.


The capacity of immune complexes to augment antibody (Ab) responses is well established. The enhancing effects of immune complexes have been attributed mainly to Fc-mediated adjuvant activity, while the ability of Abs to induce antigenic alterations of specific epitopes as a result of immune complex formation has been less well studied. Previously we have shown that the interaction of anti-CD4-binding site (CD4bs) Abs with HIV-1 gp120 induces conformation changes that lead to enhanced antigenicity and immunogenicity of neutralizing epitopes in the V3 loop. The present study shows that significant increases in the antigenicity of the V3 and C1 regions of gp120 were attained for several subtype B gp120s and a subtype C gp120 upon immune complex formation with the anti-CD4bs monoclonal Ab (mAb) 654-D. Such enhancement was observed with immune complexes made with other anti-CD4bs mAbs and anti-V2 mAbs, but not with anti-C2 mAbs, indicating this activity is determined by antigen specificity of the mAb that formed the immune complex. When immune complexes of gp120(LAI)/654-D and gp120(JRFL)/654-D were tested as immunogens in mice, serum Abs to gp120 and V3 were generated at significantly higher titers than those induced by the respective uncomplexed gp120s. Notably, the anti-V3 Ab responses had distinct fine specificities; gp120(JRFL)/654-D stimulated more cross-reactive anti-V3 Abs than gp120(LAI)/654-D. Neutralizing activities against viruses with heterologous envelope were also detected in sera of mice immunized with gp120(JRFL)/654-D, although the neutralization breadth was still limited. Overall this study shows the potential use of gp120/Ab complexes to augment the immunogenicity of HIV-1 envelope gp120, but further improvements are needed to elicit virus-neutralizing Ab responses with higher potency and breadth.

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