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Vaccine. 2011 Nov 8;29(48):9064-74. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2011.09.057. Epub 2011 Sep 23.

Improving immunogenicity of HIV-1 envelope gp120 by glycan removal and immune complex formation.

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New York University School of Medicine, Department of Pathology, New York, NY 10016, USA.


HIV-1 envelope (Env) gp120 is an important target for neutralizing antibody (Ab) responses against the virus; however, developing gp120 vaccines that elicit potent and broad neutralizing Abs has proven to be a formidable challenge. Previously, removal of an N-linked glycan at residue 448 by an N to Q mutation (N448Q) has been found to enhance the in vitro antigenicity of neutralizing epitopes in the V3 loop. In this study the mutated gp120 was first compared with wild type gp120 for immunogenicity in mice using a DNA prime and protein boost immunization regimen. The N448Q mutant did not elicit higher titers of anti-gp120 serum Abs and failed to generate anti-V3 Abs. The sera also had no virus-neutralizing activity, even though the mutant induced higher levels of lymphoproliferation and cytokine production. Subsequently, the N448Q mutant was used to construct an immune complex vaccine with the anti-CD4 binding site monoclonal antibody (mAb) 654. The N448Q/654 complex stimulated comparably high levels of serum Abs to gp120 and V3 as the wild type complex. However, Abs against the C1 and C2 regions in the gp120 core were more elevated. Importantly, the mutant complex also elicited higher titers of neutralizing Abs activity than the wild type counterpart. Similar results were achieved with a complex made with gp120 bearing an N448E mutation, confirming the importance of the N448-linked glycan in modulating gp120 immunogenicity. Neutralizing activity was directed to V3 and other undefined neutralizing epitopes. Improved immunogenicity of the immune complexes correlated with alterations in exposure of V3 and other Ab epitopes and their stability against proteases. These data demonstrate the advantage of combining site-specific N-glycan removal and immune complex formation as a novel vaccine strategy to improve immunogenicity of targeted Ab epitopes on critical regions of HIV-1 gp120.

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