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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2012 Jan 27;417(4):1164-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2011.12.089. Epub 2011 Dec 27.

Characterization of germline antibody libraries from human umbilical cord blood and selection of monoclonal antibodies to viral envelope glycoproteins: Implications for mechanisms of immune evasion and design of vaccine immunogens.

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Protein Interactions Group, Center for Cancer Research Nanobiology Program, National Cancer Institute-Frederick, National Institutes of Health, Frederick, MD 21702, USA.


We have previously observed that all known HIV-1 broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) are highly divergent from germline antibodies in contrast to bnAbs against Hendra virus, Nipah virus and SARS coronavirus (SARS CoV). We have hypothesized that because the germline antibodies are so different from the mature HIV-1-specific bnAbs they may not bind the epitopes of the mature antibodies and provided the first evidence to support this hypothesis by using individual putative germline-like predecessor antibodies. To further validate the hypothesis and understand initial immune responses to different viruses, two phage-displayed human cord blood-derived IgM libraries were constructed which contained mostly germline antibodies or antibodies with very low level of somatic hypermutations. They were panned against different HIV-1 envelope glycoproteins (Envs), SARS CoV protein receptor-binding domain (RBD), and soluble Hendra virus G protein (sG). Despite a high sequence and combinatorial diversity observed in the cord blood-derived IgM antibody repertoire, no enrichment for binders of Envs was observed in contrast to considerable specific enrichments produced with panning against RBD and sG; one of the selected monoclonal antibodies (against the RBD) was of high (nM) affinity with only few somatic mutations. These results further support and expand our initial hypothesis for fundamental differences in immune responses leading to elicitation of bnAbs against HIV-1 compared to SARS CoV and Hendra virus. HIV-1 uses a strategy to minimize or eliminate strong binding of germline antibodies to its Env; in contrast, SARS CoV and Hendra virus, and perhaps other viruses causing acute infections, can bind germline antibody or minimally somatically mutated antibodies with relatively high affinity which could be one of the reasons for the success of sG and RBD as vaccine immunogens.

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