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J Virol. 2012 Dec;86(23):12484-93. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01959-12. Epub 2012 Sep 19.

Neutralizing capacity of monoclonal antibodies that recognize peptide sequences underlying the carbohydrates on gp41 of simian immunodeficiency virus.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology, New England Primate Research Center, Harvard Medical School, Southborough, Massachusetts, USA.


Extensive glycosylation of the envelope spikes of human and simian immunodeficiency virus (HIV and SIV) is an important factor for the resistance of these viruses to neutralization by antibodies. SIVmac239 gp41 has three closely spaced sites for N-linked carbohydrate attachment. Rhesus macaques experimentally infected with mutant versions of SIVmac239 lacking two or three of these carbohydrate sites developed strong serum reactivity against mutated peptide sequences at the site of these glycosylations, as well as high titers of neutralizing activity to the mutant viruses (E. Yuste et al., J. Virol. 82:12472-12486, 2008). However, whether antibodies that recognize these underlying peptides have neutralizing activity has not been directly demonstrated. Here we describe the isolation and characterization of three gp41-specific monoclonal antibodies (4G8, 6G8, and 7D6) from one of these mutant-infected monkeys. All three antibodies reacted with mutant gp41 from viral particles and also with peptides corresponding to mutated sequences. Slight differences in peptide specificities were observed among the three antibodies. Sequence analysis revealed that the heavy chains of all three antibodies were derived from the same germ line heavy-chain segment (IGHV4-59*01), but they all had very different sequences in complementarity-determining region 3. The light chains of all three antibodies were very closely related to one another. All three antibodies had neutralizing activity to mutant viruses deficient in gp41 carbohydrate attachment, but they did not neutralize the parental SIVmac239. These results demonstrate unambiguously that antibodies with specificity for peptide sequences underlying gp41 carbohydrates can effectively neutralize SIV when these carbohydrates are absent. However, the presence of these gp41 carbohydrates effectively shields the virus from antibodies that would otherwise neutralize viral infectivity.

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