Identifying characteristics of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) envelope that are effective in generating broad, protective antibodies remains a hurdle to HIV vaccine design. Emerging evidence of the development of broad and potent neutralizing antibodies in HIV-infected subjects suggests that founder and subsequent progeny viruses may express unique antigenic motifs that contribute to this developmental pathway. We hypothesize that over the course of natural infection, B cells are programmed to develop broad antibodies by exposure to select populations of emerging envelope quasispecies variants. To test this hypothesis, we identified two unrelated subjects whose antibodies demonstrated increasing neutralization breadth against a panel of HIV-1 isolates over time. Full-length functional env genes were cloned longitudinally from these subjects from months after infection through 2.6 to 5.8 years of infection. Motifs associated with the development of breadth in published, cross-sectional studies were found in both subjects. We compared the immunogenicity of envelope vaccines derived from time points obtained during and after broadening of neutralization activity within these subjects. Rabbits were coimmunized four times with selected multiple gp160 DNAs and gp140-trimeric envelope proteins. The affinity of the polyclonal response increased as a function of boosting. The most rapid and persistent neutralization of multiclade tier 1 viruses was elicited by envelopes that were circulating in plasma at time points prior to the development of 50% neutralization breadth in both human subjects. The breadth elicited in rabbits was not improved by exposure to later envelope variants. These data have implications for vaccine development in describing a target time point to identify optimal envelope immunogens.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science