Envelope characteristics in individuals who developed neutralizing antibodies targeting different epitopes in HIV-1 subtype C infection.


Broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) may constitute an essential component of a protective vaccine against HIV-1, yet no immunogen has been able to elicit them. To characterize the development of bNAbs in HIV-1 subtype C infected individuals, a panel of 18 Env-pseudotyped viruses was used to screen 18 study participants. The specificity of plasma neutralization was mapped against Env mutants and MPER chimeras. Envelope (env) gene sequence evolution was characterized by single genome amplification and sequencing. Three out of eighteen individuals developed broad plasma neutralizing activity (>60% breadth). Two of the three participants may target epitopes comprising glycans at position 276 of the D loop in the CD4 binding site and 332 glycan supersite, respectively. Deletion of these glycans was associated with neutralization resistance. Our study describes the kinetics of the development of plasma neutralizing activity and identified amino acid residue changes suggestive of immune pressure on putative epitopes. The study enhances our understanding of how neutralization breadth develops in the course of HIV-1 subtype C infection.