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Identification of Non-HIV Immunogens That Bind to Germline b12 Predecessors and Prime for Elicitation of Cross-clade Neutralizing HIV-1 Antibodies.
PUBLISHED: 05-27-2015
A fundamental challenge for developing an effective and safe HIV-1 vaccine is to identify vaccine immunogens that can initiate and maintain immune responses leading to elicitation of broadly neutralizing HIV-1 antibodies (bnAbs) through complex maturation pathways. We have previously found that HIV-1 envelope glycoproteins (Env) lack measurable binding to putative germline predecessors of known bnAbs and proposed to search for non-HIV immunogens that could initiate their somatic maturation. Using bnAb b12 as a model bnAb and yeast display technology, we isolated five (poly)peptides from plant leaves, insects, E. coli strains, and sea water microbes that bind to b12 putative germline and intermediate antibodies. Rabbit immunization with the (poly)peptides alone induced high titers of cross-reactive antibodies that neutralized HIV-1 isolates SF162 and JRFL. Priming rabbits with the (poly)peptides followed by boosts with trimeric gp140SF162 and then resurfaced Env (RSC3) induced antibodies that competed with mature b12 and neutralized tier 1 and 2 viruses from clade B, C and E, while control rabbits without (poly)peptide priming induced antibodies that did not compete with mature b12 and neutralized fewer isolates. The degree of competition with mature b12 for binding to gp140SF162 correlated with the neutralizing activity of the rabbit IgG. Reversing the order of the two boosting immunogens significantly affected the binding profile and neutralization potency of the rabbit IgG. Our study is the first to provide evidence that appears to support the concept that non-HIV immunogens may initiate immune responses leading to elicitation of cross-clade neutralizing antibodies.
Authors: Linlin Gu, Anitra L. Farrow, Alexandre Krendelchtchikov, Qiana L. Matthews.
Published: 05-06-2015
Adenovirus serotype 5 (Ad5) has been extensively modified with traditional transgene methods for the vaccine development. The reduced efficacies of these traditionally modified Ad5 vectors in clinical trials could be primarily correlated with Ad5 pre-existing immunity (PEI) among the majority of the population. To promote Ad5-vectored vaccine development by solving the concern of Ad5 PEI, the innovative Antigen Capsid-Incorporation strategy has been employed. By merit of this strategy, Ad5-vectored we first constructed the hexon shuttle plasmid HVR1-KWAS-HVR5-His6/pH5S by subcloning the hypervariable region (HVR) 1 of hexon into a previously constructed shuttle plasmid HVR5-His6/pH5S, which had His6 tag incorporated into the HVR5. This HVR1 DNA fragment containing a HIV epitope ELDKWAS was synthesized. HVR1-KWAS-HVR5-His6/pH5S was then linearized and co-transformed with linearized backbone plasmid pAd5/∆H5 (GL) , for homologous recombination. This recombined plasmid pAd5/H5-HVR1-KWAS-HVR5-His6 was transfected into cells to generate the viral vector Ad5/H5-HVR1-KWAS-HVR5-His6. This vector was validated to have qualitative fitness indicated by viral physical titer (VP/ml), infectious titer (IP/ml) and corresponding VP/IP ratio. Both the HIV epitope and His6 tag were surface-exposed on the Ad5 capsid, and retained epitope-specific antigenicity of their own. A neutralization assay indicated the ability of this divalent vector to circumvent neutralization by Ad5-positive sera in vitro. Mice immunization demonstrated the generation of robust humoral immunity specific to the HIV epitope and His6. This proof-of-principle study suggested that the protocol associated with the Antigen Capsid-Incorporation strategy could be feasibly utilized for the generation of Ad5-vectored vaccines by modifying different capsid proteins. This protocol could even be further modified for the generation of rare-serotype adenovirus-vectored vaccines.
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Determination of Molecular Structures of HIV Envelope Glycoproteins using Cryo-Electron Tomography and Automated Sub-tomogram Averaging
Authors: Joel R. Meyerson, Tommi A. White, Donald Bliss, Amy Moran, Alberto Bartesaghi, Mario J. Borgnia, M. Jason V. de la Cruz, David Schauder, Lisa M. Hartnell, Rachna Nandwani, Moez Dawood, Brianna Kim, Jun Hong Kim, John Sununu, Lisa Yang, Siddhant Bhatia, Carolyn Subramaniam, Darrell E. Hurt, Laurent Gaudreault, Sriram Subramaniam.
Institutions: National Institutes of Health, University of Cambridge , National Institutes of Health, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, William Fremd High School, University of Virginia , Duke University , Yale University, University of Notre Dame , Washington University in St. Louis , National Institutes of Health, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.
Since its discovery nearly 30 years ago, more than 60 million people have been infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) ( The virus infects and destroys CD4+ T-cells thereby crippling the immune system, and causing an acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) 2. Infection begins when the HIV Envelope glycoprotein "spike" makes contact with the CD4 receptor on the surface of the CD4+ T-cell. This interaction induces a conformational change in the spike, which promotes interaction with a second cell surface co-receptor 5,9. The significance of these protein interactions in the HIV infection pathway makes them of profound importance in fundamental HIV research, and in the pursuit of an HIV vaccine. The need to better understand the molecular-scale interactions of HIV cell contact and neutralization motivated the development of a technique to determine the structures of the HIV spike interacting with cell surface receptor proteins and molecules that block infection. Using cryo-electron tomography and 3D image processing, we recently demonstrated the ability to determine such structures on the surface of native virus, at ˜20 Å resolution 9,14. This approach is not limited to resolving HIV Envelope structures, and can be extended to other viral membrane proteins and proteins reconstituted on a liposome. In this protocol, we describe how to obtain structures of HIV envelope glycoproteins starting from purified HIV virions and proceeding stepwise through preparing vitrified samples, collecting, cryo-electron microscopy data, reconstituting and processing 3D data volumes, averaging and classifying 3D protein subvolumes, and interpreting results to produce a protein model. The computational aspects of our approach were adapted into modules that can be accessed and executed remotely using the Biowulf GNU/Linux parallel processing cluster at the NIH ( This remote access, combined with low-cost computer hardware and high-speed network access, has made possible the involvement of researchers and students working from school or home.
Immunology, Issue 58, HIV, Envelope glycoprotein, membrane protein, vaccine design, cryo-electron tomography, transmission electron microscopy, structural biology, high school science, scientific outreach, scientific visualization, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, National Library of Medicine
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Conformational Evaluation of HIV-1 Trimeric Envelope Glycoproteins Using a Cell-based ELISA Assay
Authors: Maxime Veillette, Mathieu Coutu, Jonathan Richard, Laurie-Anne Batraville, Anik Désormeaux, Michel Roger, Andrés Finzi.
Institutions: Université de Montréal.
HIV-1 envelope glycoproteins (Env) mediate viral entry into target cells and are essential to the infectious cycle. Understanding how those glycoproteins are able to fuel the fusion process through their conformational changes could lead to the design of better, more effective immunogens for vaccine strategies. Here we describe a cell-based ELISA assay that allows studying the recognition of trimeric HIV-1 Env by monoclonal antibodies. Following expression of HIV-1 trimeric Env at the surface of transfected cells, conformation specific anti-Env antibodies are incubated with the cells. A horseradish peroxidase-conjugated secondary antibody and a simple chemiluminescence reaction are then used to detect bound antibodies. This system is highly flexible and can detect Env conformational changes induced by soluble CD4 or cellular proteins. It requires minimal amount of material and no highly-specialized equipment or know-how. Thus, this technique can be established for medium to high throughput screening of antigens and antibodies, such as newly-isolated antibodies.
Infectious Diseases, Issue 91, HIV-1, envelope glycoproteins, gp120, gp41, neutralizing antibodies, non-neutralizing antibodies, CD4, cell-based ELISA
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Pairwise Growth Competition Assay for Determining the Replication Fitness of Human Immunodeficiency Viruses
Authors: Siriphan Manocheewa, Erinn C. Lanxon-Cookson, Yi Liu, J. Victor Swain, Jan McClure, Ushnal Rao, Brandon Maust, Wenjie Deng, Justine E. Sunshine, Moon Kim, Morgane Rolland, James I. Mullins.
Institutions: University of Washington, University of Washington, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Henry M. Jackson Foundation.
In vitro fitness assays are essential tools for determining viral replication fitness for viruses such as HIV-1. Various measurements have been used to extrapolate viral replication fitness, ranging from the number of viral particles per infectious unit, growth rate in cell culture, and relative fitness derived from multiple-cycle growth competition assays. Growth competition assays provide a particularly sensitive measurement of fitness since the viruses are competing for cellular targets under identical growth conditions. There are several experimental factors to consider when conducting growth competition assays, including the multiplicity of infection (MOI), sampling times, and viral detection and fitness calculation methods. Each factor can affect the end result and hence must be considered carefully during the experimental design. The protocol presented here includes steps from constructing a new recombinant HIV-1 clone to performing growth competition assays and analyzing the experimental results. This protocol utilizes experimental parameter values previously shown to yield consistent and robust results. Alternatives are discussed, as some parameters need to be adjusted according to the cell type and viruses being studied. The protocol contains two alternative viral detection methods to provide flexibility as the availability of instruments, reagents and expertise varies between laboratories.
Immunology, Issue 99, HIV-1, Recombinant, Mutagenesis, Viral replication fitness, Growth competition, Fitness calculation
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The Use of Fluorescent Target Arrays for Assessment of T Cell Responses In vivo
Authors: Benjamin J. C. Quah, Danushka K. Wijesundara, Charani Ranasinghe, Christopher R. Parish.
Institutions: Australian National University.
The ability to monitor T cell responses in vivo is important for the development of our understanding of the immune response and the design of immunotherapies. Here we describe the use of fluorescent target array (FTA) technology, which utilizes vital dyes such as carboxyfluorescein succinimidyl ester (CFSE), violet laser excitable dyes (CellTrace Violet: CTV) and red laser excitable dyes (Cell Proliferation Dye eFluor 670: CPD) to combinatorially label mouse lymphocytes into >250 discernable fluorescent cell clusters. Cell clusters within these FTAs can be pulsed with major histocompatibility (MHC) class-I and MHC class-II binding peptides and thereby act as target cells for CD8+ and CD4+ T cells, respectively. These FTA cells remain viable and fully functional, and can therefore be administered into mice to allow assessment of CD8+ T cell-mediated killing of FTA target cells and CD4+ T cell-meditated help of FTA B cell target cells in real time in vivo by flow cytometry. Since >250 target cells can be assessed at once, the technique allows the monitoring of T cell responses against several antigen epitopes at several concentrations and in multiple replicates. As such, the technique can measure T cell responses at both a quantitative (e.g. the cumulative magnitude of the response) and a qualitative (e.g. functional avidity and epitope-cross reactivity of the response) level. Herein, we describe how these FTAs are constructed and give an example of how they can be applied to assess T cell responses induced by a recombinant pox virus vaccine.
Immunology, Issue 88, Investigative Techniques, T cell response, Flow Cytometry, Multiparameter, CTL assay in vivo, carboxyfluorescein succinimidyl ester (CFSE), CellTrace Violet (CTV), Cell Proliferation Dye eFluor 670 (CPD)
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Development of a Quantitative Recombinase Polymerase Amplification Assay with an Internal Positive Control
Authors: Zachary A. Crannell, Brittany Rohrman, Rebecca Richards-Kortum.
Institutions: Rice University.
It was recently demonstrated that recombinase polymerase amplification (RPA), an isothermal amplification platform for pathogen detection, may be used to quantify DNA sample concentration using a standard curve. In this manuscript, a detailed protocol for developing and implementing a real-time quantitative recombinase polymerase amplification assay (qRPA assay) is provided. Using HIV-1 DNA quantification as an example, the assembly of real-time RPA reactions, the design of an internal positive control (IPC) sequence, and co-amplification of the IPC and target of interest are all described. Instructions and data processing scripts for the construction of a standard curve using data from multiple experiments are provided, which may be used to predict the concentration of unknown samples or assess the performance of the assay. Finally, an alternative method for collecting real-time fluorescence data with a microscope and a stage heater as a step towards developing a point-of-care qRPA assay is described. The protocol and scripts provided may be used for the development of a qRPA assay for any DNA target of interest.
Genetics, Issue 97, recombinase polymerase amplification, isothermal amplification, quantitative, diagnostic, HIV-1, viral load
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A Restriction Enzyme Based Cloning Method to Assess the In vitro Replication Capacity of HIV-1 Subtype C Gag-MJ4 Chimeric Viruses
Authors: Daniel T. Claiborne, Jessica L. Prince, Eric Hunter.
Institutions: Emory University, Emory University.
The protective effect of many HLA class I alleles on HIV-1 pathogenesis and disease progression is, in part, attributed to their ability to target conserved portions of the HIV-1 genome that escape with difficulty. Sequence changes attributed to cellular immune pressure arise across the genome during infection, and if found within conserved regions of the genome such as Gag, can affect the ability of the virus to replicate in vitro. Transmission of HLA-linked polymorphisms in Gag to HLA-mismatched recipients has been associated with reduced set point viral loads. We hypothesized this may be due to a reduced replication capacity of the virus. Here we present a novel method for assessing the in vitro replication of HIV-1 as influenced by the gag gene isolated from acute time points from subtype C infected Zambians. This method uses restriction enzyme based cloning to insert the gag gene into a common subtype C HIV-1 proviral backbone, MJ4. This makes it more appropriate to the study of subtype C sequences than previous recombination based methods that have assessed the in vitro replication of chronically derived gag-pro sequences. Nevertheless, the protocol could be readily modified for studies of viruses from other subtypes. Moreover, this protocol details a robust and reproducible method for assessing the replication capacity of the Gag-MJ4 chimeric viruses on a CEM-based T cell line. This method was utilized for the study of Gag-MJ4 chimeric viruses derived from 149 subtype C acutely infected Zambians, and has allowed for the identification of residues in Gag that affect replication. More importantly, the implementation of this technique has facilitated a deeper understanding of how viral replication defines parameters of early HIV-1 pathogenesis such as set point viral load and longitudinal CD4+ T cell decline.
Infectious Diseases, Issue 90, HIV-1, Gag, viral replication, replication capacity, viral fitness, MJ4, CEM, GXR25
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Characterization of Complex Systems Using the Design of Experiments Approach: Transient Protein Expression in Tobacco as a Case Study
Authors: Johannes Felix Buyel, Rainer Fischer.
Institutions: RWTH Aachen University, Fraunhofer Gesellschaft.
Plants provide multiple benefits for the production of biopharmaceuticals including low costs, scalability, and safety. Transient expression offers the additional advantage of short development and production times, but expression levels can vary significantly between batches thus giving rise to regulatory concerns in the context of good manufacturing practice. We used a design of experiments (DoE) approach to determine the impact of major factors such as regulatory elements in the expression construct, plant growth and development parameters, and the incubation conditions during expression, on the variability of expression between batches. We tested plants expressing a model anti-HIV monoclonal antibody (2G12) and a fluorescent marker protein (DsRed). We discuss the rationale for selecting certain properties of the model and identify its potential limitations. The general approach can easily be transferred to other problems because the principles of the model are broadly applicable: knowledge-based parameter selection, complexity reduction by splitting the initial problem into smaller modules, software-guided setup of optimal experiment combinations and step-wise design augmentation. Therefore, the methodology is not only useful for characterizing protein expression in plants but also for the investigation of other complex systems lacking a mechanistic description. The predictive equations describing the interconnectivity between parameters can be used to establish mechanistic models for other complex systems.
Bioengineering, Issue 83, design of experiments (DoE), transient protein expression, plant-derived biopharmaceuticals, promoter, 5'UTR, fluorescent reporter protein, model building, incubation conditions, monoclonal antibody
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Protein WISDOM: A Workbench for In silico De novo Design of BioMolecules
Authors: James Smadbeck, Meghan B. Peterson, George A. Khoury, Martin S. Taylor, Christodoulos A. Floudas.
Institutions: Princeton University.
The aim of de novo protein design is to find the amino acid sequences that will fold into a desired 3-dimensional structure with improvements in specific properties, such as binding affinity, agonist or antagonist behavior, or stability, relative to the native sequence. Protein design lies at the center of current advances drug design and discovery. Not only does protein design provide predictions for potentially useful drug targets, but it also enhances our understanding of the protein folding process and protein-protein interactions. Experimental methods such as directed evolution have shown success in protein design. However, such methods are restricted by the limited sequence space that can be searched tractably. In contrast, computational design strategies allow for the screening of a much larger set of sequences covering a wide variety of properties and functionality. We have developed a range of computational de novo protein design methods capable of tackling several important areas of protein design. These include the design of monomeric proteins for increased stability and complexes for increased binding affinity. To disseminate these methods for broader use we present Protein WISDOM (, a tool that provides automated methods for a variety of protein design problems. Structural templates are submitted to initialize the design process. The first stage of design is an optimization sequence selection stage that aims at improving stability through minimization of potential energy in the sequence space. Selected sequences are then run through a fold specificity stage and a binding affinity stage. A rank-ordered list of the sequences for each step of the process, along with relevant designed structures, provides the user with a comprehensive quantitative assessment of the design. Here we provide the details of each design method, as well as several notable experimental successes attained through the use of the methods.
Genetics, Issue 77, Molecular Biology, Bioengineering, Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Computational Biology, Genomics, Proteomics, Protein, Protein Binding, Computational Biology, Drug Design, optimization (mathematics), Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins, De novo protein and peptide design, Drug design, In silico sequence selection, Optimization, Fold specificity, Binding affinity, sequencing
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Peptide-based Identification of Functional Motifs and their Binding Partners
Authors: Martin N. Shelton, Ming Bo Huang, Syed Ali, Kateena Johnson, William Roth, Michael Powell, Vincent Bond.
Institutions: Morehouse School of Medicine, Institute for Systems Biology, Universiti Sains Malaysia.
Specific short peptides derived from motifs found in full-length proteins, in our case HIV-1 Nef, not only retain their biological function, but can also competitively inhibit the function of the full-length protein. A set of 20 Nef scanning peptides, 20 amino acids in length with each overlapping 10 amino acids of its neighbor, were used to identify motifs in Nef responsible for its induction of apoptosis. Peptides containing these apoptotic motifs induced apoptosis at levels comparable to the full-length Nef protein. A second peptide, derived from the Secretion Modification Region (SMR) of Nef, retained the ability to interact with cellular proteins involved in Nef's secretion in exosomes (exNef). This SMRwt peptide was used as the "bait" protein in co-immunoprecipitation experiments to isolate cellular proteins that bind specifically to Nef's SMR motif. Protein transfection and antibody inhibition was used to physically disrupt the interaction between Nef and mortalin, one of the isolated SMR-binding proteins, and the effect was measured with a fluorescent-based exNef secretion assay. The SMRwt peptide's ability to outcompete full-length Nef for cellular proteins that bind the SMR motif, make it the first inhibitor of exNef secretion. Thus, by employing the techniques described here, which utilize the unique properties of specific short peptides derived from motifs found in full-length proteins, one may accelerate the identification of functional motifs in proteins and the development of peptide-based inhibitors of pathogenic functions.
Virology, Issue 76, Biochemistry, Immunology, Infection, Infectious Diseases, Molecular Biology, Medicine, Genetics, Microbiology, Genomics, Proteins, Exosomes, HIV, Peptides, Exocytosis, protein trafficking, secretion, HIV-1, Nef, Secretion Modification Region, SMR, peptide, AIDS, assay
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An In vitro Co-infection Model to Study Plasmodium falciparum-HIV-1 Interactions in Human Primary Monocyte-derived Immune Cells
Authors: Guadalupe Andreani, Dominic Gagnon, Robert Lodge, Michel J. Tremblay, Dave Richard.
Institutions: CHUL (CHUQ), Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.
Plasmodium falciparum, the causative agent of the deadliest form of malaria, and human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1) are among the most important health problems worldwide, being responsible for a total of 4 million deaths annually1. Due to their extensive overlap in developing regions, especially Sub-Saharan Africa, co-infections with malaria and HIV-1 are common, but the interplay between the two diseases is poorly understood. Epidemiological reports have suggested that malarial infection transiently enhances HIV-1 replication and increases HIV-1 viral load in co-infected individuals2,3. Because this viremia stays high for several weeks after treatment with antimalarials, this phenomenon could have an impact on disease progression and transmission. The cellular immunological mechanisms behind these observations have been studied only scarcely. The few in vitro studies investigating the impact of malaria on HIV-1 have demonstrated that exposure to soluble malarial antigens can increase HIV-1 infection and reactivation in immune cells. However, these studies used whole cell extracts of P. falciparum schizont stage parasites and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), making it hard to decipher which malarial component(s) was responsible for the observed effects and what the target host cells were4,5. Recent work has demonstrated that exposure of immature monocyte-derived dendritic cells to the malarial pigment hemozoin increased their ability to transfer HIV-1 to CD4+ T cells6,7, but that it decreased HIV-1 infection of macrophages8. To shed light on this complex process, a systematic analysis of the interactions between the malaria parasite and HIV-1 in different relevant human primary cell populations is critically needed. Several techniques for investigating the impact of HIV-1 on the phagocytosis of micro-organisms and the effect of such pathogens on HIV-1 replication have been described. We here present a method to investigate the effects of P. falciparum-infected erythrocytes on the replication of HIV-1 in human primary monocyte-derived macrophages. The impact of parasite exposure on HIV-1 transcriptional/translational events is monitored by using single cycle pseudotyped viruses in which a luciferase reporter gene has replaced the Env gene while the effect on the quantity of virus released by the infected macrophages is determined by measuring the HIV-1 capsid protein p24 by ELISA in cell supernatants.
Immunology, Issue 66, Infection, Medicine, Malaria, HIV-1, Monocyte-Derived Macrophages, PBMC, Red blood cells, Dendritic Cells, Co-infections, Parasites, Plasmodium falciparum, AIDS
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Determining the Phagocytic Activity of Clinical Antibody Samples
Authors: Elizabeth G. McAndrew, Anne-Sophie Dugast, Anna F. Licht, Justin R. Eusebio, Galit Alter, Margaret E. Ackerman.
Institutions: Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard, Dartmouth College.
Antibody-driven phagocytosis is induced via the engagement of Fc receptors on professional phagocytes, and can contribute to both clearance as well as pathology of disease. While the properties of the variable domains of antibodies have long been considered critical to in vivo function, the ability of antibodies to recruit innate immune cells via their Fc domains has become increasingly appreciated as a major factor in their efficacy, both in the setting of recombinant monoclonal antibody therapy, as well as in the course of natural infection or vaccination1-3. Importantly, despite its nomenclature as a constant domain, the antibody Fc domain does not have constant function, and is strongly modulated by IgG subclass (IgG1-4) and glycosylation at Asparagine 2974-6. Thus, this method to study functional differences of antigen-specific antibodies in clinical samples will facilitate correlation of the phagocytic potential of antibodies to disease state, susceptibility to infection, progression, or clinical outcome. Furthermore, this effector function is particularly important in light of the documented ability of antibodies to enhance infection by providing pathogens access into host cells via Fc receptor-driven phagocytosis7. Additionally, there is some evidence that phagocytic uptake of immune complexes can impact the Th1/Th2 polarization of the immune response8. Here, we describe an assay designed to detect differences in antibody-induced phagocytosis, which may be caused by differential IgG subclass, glycan structure at Asn297, as well as the ability to form immune complexes of antigen-specific antibodies in a high-throughput fashion. To this end, 1 μm fluorescent beads are coated with antigen, then incubated with clinical antibody samples, generating fluorescent antigen specific immune complexes. These antibody-opsonized beads are then incubated with a monocytic cell line expressing multiple FcγRs, including both inhibitory and activating. Assay output can include phagocytic activity, cytokine secretion, and patterns of FcγRs usage, and are determined in a standardized manner, making this a highly useful system for parsing differences in this antibody-dependent effector function in both infection and vaccine-mediated protection9.
Immunology, Issue 57, Phagocytosis, Antibody, ADCC, Effector Function, Fc receptor, antibody-dependent phagocytosis, monocytes
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Amplifying and Quantifying HIV-1 RNA in HIV Infected Individuals with Viral Loads Below the Limit of Detection by Standard Clinical Assays
Authors: Helene Mens, Mary Kearney, Ann Wiegand, Jonathan Spindler, Frank Maldarelli, John W. Mellors, John M. Coffin.
Institutions: NCI-Frederick, University of Pittsburgh, Tuffts University.
Amplifying viral genes and quantifying HIV-1 RNA in HIV-1 infected individuals with viral loads below the limit of detection by standard assays (below 50-75 copies/ml) is necessary to gain insight to viral dynamics and virus host interactions in patients who naturally control the infection and those who are on combination antiretroviral therapy (cART). Here we describe how to amplify viral genomes by single genome sequencing (the SGS protocol) 13, 19 and how to accurately quantify HIV-1 RNA in patients with low viral loads (the single-copy assay (SCA) protocol) 12, 20. The single-copy assay is a real-time PCR assay with sensitivity depending on the volume of plasma being assayed. If a single virus genome is detected in 7 ml of plasma, then the RNA copy number is reported to be 0.3 copies/ml. The assay has an internal control testing for the efficiency of RNA extraction, and controls for possible amplification from DNA or contamination. Patient samples are measured in triplicate. The single-genome sequencing assay (SGS), now widely used and considered to be non-labor intensive 3, 7, 12, 14, 15,is a limiting dilution assay, in which endpoint diluted cDNA product is spread over a 96-well plate. According to a Poisson distribution, when less than 1/3 of the wells give product, there is an 80% chance of the PCR product being resultant of amplification from a single cDNA molecule. SGS has the advantage over cloning of not being subjected to resampling and not being biased by PCR-introduced recombination 19. However, the amplification success of SCA and SGS depend on primer design. Both assays were developed for HIV-1 subtype B, but can be adapted for other subtypes and other regions of the genome by changing primers, probes, and standards.
Immunology, Issue 55, single genome sequencing, SGS, real-time PCR, single-copy assay, SCA, HIV-1, ultra-sensitive, RNA extraction
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Development of Cell-type specific anti-HIV gp120 aptamers for siRNA delivery
Authors: Jiehua Zhou, Haitang Li, Jane Zhang, Swiderski Piotr, John Rossi.
Institutions: Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope.
The global epidemic of infection by HIV has created an urgent need for new classes of antiretroviral agents. The potent ability of small interfering (si)RNAs to inhibit the expression of complementary RNA transcripts is being exploited as a new class of therapeutics for a variety of diseases including HIV. Many previous reports have shown that novel RNAi-based anti-HIV/AIDS therapeutic strategies have considerable promise; however, a key obstacle to the successful therapeutic application and clinical translation of siRNAs is efficient delivery. Particularly, considering the safety and efficacy of RNAi-based therapeutics, it is highly desirable to develop a targeted intracellular siRNA delivery approach to specific cell populations or tissues. The HIV-1 gp120 protein, a glycoprotein envelope on the surface of HIV-1, plays an important role in viral entry into CD4 cells. The interaction of gp120 and CD4 that triggers HIV-1 entry and initiates cell fusion has been validated as a clinically relevant anti-viral strategy for drug discovery. Herein, we firstly discuss the selection and identification of 2'-F modified anti-HIV gp120 RNA aptamers. Using a conventional nitrocellulose filter SELEX method, several new aptamers with nanomolar affinity were isolated from a 50 random nt RNA library. In order to successfully obtain bound species with higher affinity, the selection stringency is carefully controlled by adjusting the conditions. The selected aptamers can specifically bind and be rapidly internalized into cells expressing the HIV-1 envelope protein. Additionally, the aptamers alone can neutralize HIV-1 infectivity. Based upon the best aptamer A-1, we also create a novel dual inhibitory function anti-gp120 aptamer-siRNA chimera in which both the aptamer and the siRNA portions have potent anti-HIV activities. Further, we utilize the gp120 aptamer-siRNA chimeras for cell-type specific delivery of the siRNA into HIV-1 infected cells. This dual function chimera shows considerable potential for combining various nucleic acid therapeutic agents (aptamer and siRNA) in suppressing HIV-1 infection, making the aptamer-siRNA chimeras attractive therapeutic candidates for patients failing highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).
Immunology, Issue 52, SELEX (Systematic Evolution of Ligands by EXponential enrichment), RNA aptamer, HIV-1 gp120, RNAi (RNA interference), siRNA (small interfering RNA), cell-type specific delivery
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Quantitative Analyses of all Influenza Type A Viral Hemagglutinins and Neuraminidases using Universal Antibodies in Simple Slot Blot Assays
Authors: Caroline Gravel, Changgui Li, Junzhi Wang, Anwar M Hashem, Bozena Jaentschke, Gary Van Domselaar, Runtao He, Xuguang Li.
Institutions: Health canada, The State Food and Drug Administration, Beijing, University of Ottawa, King Abdulaziz University, Public Health Agency of Canada.
Hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) are two surface proteins of influenza viruses which are known to play important roles in the viral life cycle and the induction of protective immune responses1,2. As the main target for neutralizing antibodies, HA is currently used as the influenza vaccine potency marker and is measured by single radial immunodiffusion (SRID)3. However, the dependence of SRID on the availability of the corresponding subtype-specific antisera causes a minimum of 2-3 months delay for the release of every new vaccine. Moreover, despite evidence that NA also induces protective immunity4, the amount of NA in influenza vaccines is not yet standardized due to a lack of appropriate reagents or analytical method5. Thus, simple alternative methods capable of quantifying HA and NA antigens are desirable for rapid release and better quality control of influenza vaccines. Universally conserved regions in all available influenza A HA and NA sequences were identified by bioinformatics analyses6-7. One sequence (designated as Uni-1) was identified in the only universally conserved epitope of HA, the fusion peptide6, while two conserved sequences were identified in neuraminidases, one close to the enzymatic active site (designated as HCA-2) and the other close to the N-terminus (designated as HCA-3)7. Peptides with these amino acid sequences were synthesized and used to immunize rabbits for the production of antibodies. The antibody against the Uni-1 epitope of HA was able to bind to 13 subtypes of influenza A HA (H1-H13) while the antibodies against the HCA-2 and HCA-3 regions of NA were capable of binding all 9 NA subtypes. All antibodies showed remarkable specificity against the viral sequences as evidenced by the observation that no cross-reactivity to allantoic proteins was detected. These universal antibodies were then used to develop slot blot assays to quantify HA and NA in influenza A vaccines without the need for specific antisera7,8. Vaccine samples were applied onto a PVDF membrane using a slot blot apparatus along with reference standards diluted to various concentrations. For the detection of HA, samples and standard were first diluted in Tris-buffered saline (TBS) containing 4M urea while for the measurement of NA they were diluted in TBS containing 0.01% Zwittergent as these conditions significantly improved the detection sensitivity. Following the detection of the HA and NA antigens by immunoblotting with their respective universal antibodies, signal intensities were quantified by densitometry. Amounts of HA and NA in the vaccines were then calculated using a standard curve established with the signal intensities of the various concentrations of the references used. Given that these antibodies bind to universal epitopes in HA or NA, interested investigators could use them as research tools in immunoassays other than the slot blot only.
Immunology, Issue 50, Virology, influenza, hemagglutinin, neuraminidase, quantification, universal antibody
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Preparation and Use of HIV-1 Infected Primary CD4+ T-Cells as Target Cells in Natural Killer Cell Cytotoxic Assays
Authors: Zachary B. Davis, Jeffrey P. Ward, Edward Barker.
Institutions: Rush University Medical Center.
Natural killer (NK) cells are a vital component of the innate immune response to virus-infected cells. It is important to understand the ability of NK cells to recognize and lyse HIV-1 infected cells because identifying any aberrancy in NK cell function against HIV-infected cells could potentially lead to therapies that would enhance their cytolytic activity. There is a need to use HIV-infected primary T-cell blasts as target cells rather then infected-T-cell lines in the cytotoxicity assays. T-cell lines, even without infection, are quite susceptible to NK cell lysis. Furthermore, it is necessary to use autologous primary cells to prevent major histocompatibility complex class I mismatches between the target and effector cell that will result in lysis. Early studies evaluating NK cell cytolytic responses to primary HIV-infected cells failed to show significant killing of the infected cells 1,2. However, using HIV-1 infected primary T-cells as target cells in NK cell functional assays has been difficult due the presence of contaminating uninfected cells 3. This inconsistent infected cell to uninfected cell ratio will result in variation in NK cell killing between samples that may not be due to variability in donor NK cell function. Thus, it would be beneficial to work with a purified infected cell population in order to standardize the effector to target cell ratios between experiments 3,4. Here we demonstrate the isolation of a highly purified population of HIV-1 infected cells by taking advantage of HIV-1's ability to down-modulate CD4 on infected cells and the availability of commercial kits to remove dead or dying cells 3-6. The purified infected primary T-cell blasts can then be used as targets in either a degranulation or cytotoxic assay with purified NK cells as the effector population 5-7. Use of NK cells as effectors in a degranulation assay evaluates the ability of an NK cell to release the lytic contents of specialized lysosomes 8 called "cytolytic granules". By staining with a fluorochrome conjugated antibody against CD107a, a lysosomal membrane protein that becomes expressed on the NK cell surface when the cytolytic granules fuse to the plasma membrane, we can determine what percentage of NK cells degranulate in response to target cell recognition. Alternatively, NK cell lytic activity can be evaluated in a cytotoxic assay that allows for the determination of the percentage of target cells lysed by release of 51Cr from within the target cell in the presence of NK cells.
Immunology, Issue 49, innate immunity, HIV-1, natural killer cell, cytolytic assay, degranulation assay, primary lymphocytes
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Protocol for Recombinant RBD-based SARS Vaccines: Protein Preparation, Animal Vaccination and Neutralization Detection
Authors: Lanying Du, Xiujuan Zhang, Jixiang Liu, Shibo Jiang.
Institutions: New York Blood Center.
Based on their safety profile and ability to induce potent immune responses against infections, subunit vaccines have been used as candidates for a wide variety of pathogens 1-3. Since the mammalian cell system is capable of post-translational modification, thus forming properly folded and glycosylated proteins, recombinant proteins expressed in mammalian cells have shown the greatest potential to maintain high antigenicity and immunogenicity 4-6. Although no new cases of SARS have been reported since 2004, future outbreaks are a constant threat; therefore, the development of vaccines against SARS-CoV is a prudent preventive step and should be carried out. The RBD of SARS-CoV S protein plays important roles in receptor binding and induction of specific neutralizing antibodies against virus infection 7-9. Therefore, in this protocol, we describe novel methods for developing a RBD-based subunit vaccine against SARS. Briefly, the recombinant RBD protein (rRBD) was expressed in culture supernatant of mammalian 293T cells to obtain a correctly folded protein with proper conformation and high immunogenicity 6. The transfection of the recombinant plasmid encoding RBD to the cells was then performed using a calcium phosphate transfection method 6,10 with some modifications. Compared with the lipid transfection method 11,12, this modified calcium phosphate transfection method is cheaper, easier to handle, and has the potential to reach high efficacy once a transfection complex with suitable size and shape is formed 13,14. Finally, a SARS pseudovirus neutralization assay was introduced in the protocol and used to detect the neutralizing activity of sera of mice vaccinated with rRBD protein. This assay is relatively safe, does not involve an infectious SARS-CoV, and can be performed without the requirement of a biosafety-3 laboratory 15. The protocol described here can also be used to design and study recombinant subunit vaccines against other viruses with class I fusion proteins, for example, HIV, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), Ebola virus, influenza virus, as well as Nipah and Handra viruses. In addition, the methods for generating a pseudovirus and subsequently establishing a pseudovirus neutralization assay can be applied to all these viruses.
Immunology, Issue 51, SARS, receptor-binding domain, subunit vaccines, immunization, neutralization detection
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Assessment of Immunologically Relevant Dynamic Tertiary Structural Features of the HIV-1 V3 Loop Crown R2 Sequence by ab initio Folding
Authors: David Almond, Timothy Cardozo.
Institutions: School of Medicine, New York University.
The antigenic diversity of HIV-1 has long been an obstacle to vaccine design, and this variability is especially pronounced in the V3 loop of the virus' surface envelope glycoprotein. We previously proposed that the crown of the V3 loop, although dynamic and sequence variable, is constrained throughout the population of HIV-1 viruses to an immunologically relevant β-hairpin tertiary structure. Importantly, there are thousands of different V3 loop crown sequences in circulating HIV-1 viruses, making 3D structural characterization of trends across the diversity of viruses difficult or impossible by crystallography or NMR. Our previous successful studies with folding of the V3 crown1, 2 used the ab initio algorithm 3 accessible in the ICM-Pro molecular modeling software package (Molsoft LLC, La Jolla, CA) and suggested that the crown of the V3 loop, specifically from positions 10 to 22, benefits sufficiently from the flexibility and length of its flanking stems to behave to a large degree as if it were an unconstrained peptide freely folding in solution. As such, rapid ab initio folding of just this portion of the V3 loop of any individual strain of the 60,000+ circulating HIV-1 strains can be informative. Here, we folded the V3 loop of the R2 strain to gain insight into the structural basis of its unique properties. R2 bears a rare V3 loop sequence thought to be responsible for the exquisite sensitivity of this strain to neutralization by patient sera and monoclonal antibodies4, 5. The strain mediates CD4-independent infection and appears to elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies. We demonstrate how evaluation of the results of the folding can be informative for associating observed structures in the folding with the immunological activities observed for R2.
Infection, Issue 43, HIV-1, structure-activity relationships, ab initio simulations, antibody-mediated neutralization, vaccine design
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Interview: HIV-1 Proviral DNA Excision Using an Evolved Recombinase
Authors: Joachim Hauber.
Institutions: Heinrich-Pette-Institute for Experimental Virology and Immunology, University of Hamburg.
HIV-1 integrates into the host chromosome of infected cells and persists as a provirus flanked by long terminal repeats. Current treatment strategies primarily target virus enzymes or virus-cell fusion, suppressing the viral life cycle without eradicating the infection. Since the integrated provirus is not targeted by these approaches, new resistant strains of HIV-1 may emerge. Here, we report that the engineered recombinase Tre (see Molecular evolution of the Tre recombinase , Buchholz, F., Max Planck Institute for Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden) efficiently excises integrated HIV-1 proviral DNA from the genome of infected cells. We produced loxLTR containing viral pseudotypes and infected HeLa cells to examine whether Tre recombinase can excise the provirus from the genome of HIV-1 infected human cells. A virus particle-releasing cell line was cloned and transfected with a plasmid expressing Tre or with a parental control vector. Recombinase activity and virus production were monitored. All assays demonstrated the efficient deletion of the provirus from infected cells without visible cytotoxic effects. These results serve as proof of principle that it is possible to evolve a recombinase to specifically target an HIV-1 LTR and that this recombinase is capable of excising the HIV-1 provirus from the genome of HIV-1-infected human cells. Before an engineered recombinase could enter the therapeutic arena, however, significant obstacles need to be overcome. Among the most critical issues, that we face, are an efficient and safe delivery to targeted cells and the absence of side effects.
Medicine, Issue 16, HIV, Cell Biology, Recombinase, provirus, HeLa Cells
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Molecular Evolution of the Tre Recombinase
Authors: Frank Buchholz.
Institutions: Max Plank Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden.
Here we report the generation of Tre recombinase through directed, molecular evolution. Tre recombinase recognizes a pre-defined target sequence within the LTR sequences of the HIV-1 provirus, resulting in the excision and eradication of the provirus from infected human cells. We started with Cre, a 38-kDa recombinase, that recognizes a 34-bp double-stranded DNA sequence known as loxP. Because Cre can effectively eliminate genomic sequences, we set out to tailor a recombinase that could remove the sequence between the 5'-LTR and 3'-LTR of an integrated HIV-1 provirus. As a first step we identified sequences within the LTR sites that were similar to loxP and tested for recombination activity. Initially Cre and mutagenized Cre libraries failed to recombine the chosen loxLTR sites of the HIV-1 provirus. As the start of any directed molecular evolution process requires at least residual activity, the original asymmetric loxLTR sequences were split into subsets and tested again for recombination activity. Acting as intermediates, recombination activity was shown with the subsets. Next, recombinase libraries were enriched through reiterative evolution cycles. Subsequently, enriched libraries were shuffled and recombined. The combination of different mutations proved synergistic and recombinases were created that were able to recombine loxLTR1 and loxLTR2. This was evidence that an evolutionary strategy through intermediates can be successful. After a total of 126 evolution cycles individual recombinases were functionally and structurally analyzed. The most active recombinase -- Tre -- had 19 amino acid changes as compared to Cre. Tre recombinase was able to excise the HIV-1 provirus from the genome HIV-1 infected HeLa cells (see "HIV-1 Proviral DNA Excision Using an Evolved Recombinase", Hauber J., Heinrich-Pette-Institute for Experimental Virology and Immunology, Hamburg, Germany). While still in its infancy, directed molecular evolution will allow the creation of custom enzymes that will serve as tools of "molecular surgery" and molecular medicine.
Cell Biology, Issue 15, HIV-1, Tre recombinase, Site-specific recombination, molecular evolution
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