UnlabelledEliciting broadly reactive functional antibodies remains a challenge in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) vaccine development that is complicated by variations in envelope (Env) subtype and structure. The majority of new global HIV-1 infections are subtype C, and novel antigenic properties have been described for subtype C Env proteins. Thus, an HIV-1 subtype C Env protein (CO6980v0c22) from an infected person in the acute phase (Fiebig stage I/II) was developed as a research reagent and candidate immunogen. The gp145 envelope is a novel immunogen with a fully intact membrane-proximal external region (MPER), extended by a polylysine tail. Soluble gp145 was enriched for trimers that yielded the expected "fan blade" motifs when visualized by cryoelectron microscopy. CO6980v0c22 gp145 reacts with the 4E10, PG9, PG16, and VRC01 HIV-1 neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (MAbs), as well as the V1/V2-specific PGT121, 697, 2158, and 2297 MAbs. Different gp145 oligomers were tested for immunogenicity in rabbits, and purified dimers, trimers, and larger multimers elicited similar levels of cross-subtype binding and neutralizing antibodies to tier 1 and some tier 2 viruses. Immunized rabbit sera did not neutralize the highly resistant CO6980v0c22 pseudovirus but did inhibit the homologous infectious molecular clone in a peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) assay. This Env is currently in good manufacturing practice (GMP) production to be made available for use as a clinical research tool and further evaluation as a candidate vaccine.
ImportanceAt present, the product pipeline for HIV vaccines is insufficient and is limited by inadequate capacity to produce large quantities of vaccine to standards required for human clinical trials. Such products are required to evaluate critical questions of vaccine formulation, route, dosing, and schedule, as well as to establish vaccine efficacy. The gp145 Env protein presented in this study forms physical trimers, binds to many of the well-characterized broad neutralizing MAbs that target conserved Env epitopes, and induce cross-subtype neutralizing antibodies as measured in both cell line and primary cell assays. This subtype C Env gp145 protein is currently undergoing good manufacturing practice production for use as a reagent for preclinical studies and for human clinical research. This product will serve as a reagent for comparative studies and may represent a next-generation candidate HIV immunogen.