Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is a re-emerging alphavirus that causes a debilitating arthritic disease, infects millions of people, and has no specific treatment. Like many alphaviruses, the structural targets on CHIKV that elicit a protective humoral immune response in humans are poorly defined. Here we used phage display against virus-like particles (VLPs) to isolate seven human monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) against the CHIKV envelope glycoproteins E2 and E1. One MAb, IM-CKV063, was highly neutralizing (IC50 7.4 ng/ml), demonstrated high-affinity binding (320 pM), and was capable of therapeutic and prophylactic protection in multiple animal models, up to 24 h post-exposure. Epitope mapping using a comprehensive shotgun mutagenesis library of 910 E2/E1 alanine mutations demonstrated that IM-CKV063 binds to an inter-subunit conformational epitope on domain A, a functionally important region of E2. MAbs against the highly conserved fusion loop have not previously been reported, but were also isolated in our studies. Fusion loop MAbs were broadly cross-reactive against diverse alphaviruses, but were non-neutralizing. Fusion loop MAb reactivity was affected by temperature and reactivity conditions, suggesting that the fusion loop is hidden in infectious virions. Visualizing the binding sites of 15 different MAbs on the structure of E2/E1 reveals that all epitopes are located at the membrane distal region of the E2/E1 spike. Interestingly, epitopes on the exposed top-most and outer surfaces of the E2/E1 trimer structure are neutralizing whereas epitopes facing the interior of the trimer are not, providing a rationale for vaccine design and therapeutic MAb development using the intact CHIKV E2/E1 trimer.
The lack of structural information on hepatitis C virus (HCV) surface proteins has so far hampered the development of effective vaccines. Recently, two crystallographic structures have described the core portion (E2c) of E2 surface glycoprotein, the primary mediator of HCV entry. Despite the importance of these studies, the E2 overall structure is still unknown and, most importantly, several biochemical and functional studies are in disagreement with E2c structures. Here, the main literature will be discussed and an alternative disulfide bridge pattern will be proposed, based on unpublished human monoclonal antibody reactivity. A modeling strategy aiming at recapitulating the available structural and functional studies of E2 will also be proposed.
Characterizing the binding sites of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) on protein targets, their 'epitopes', can aid in the discovery and development of new therapeutics, diagnostics and vaccines. However, the speed of epitope mapping techniques has not kept pace with the increasingly large numbers of mAbs being isolated. Obtaining detailed epitope maps for functionally relevant antibodies can be challenging, particularly for conformational epitopes on structurally complex proteins. To enable rapid epitope mapping, we developed a high-throughput strategy, shotgun mutagenesis, that enables the identification of both linear and conformational epitopes in a fraction of the time required by conventional approaches. Shotgun mutagenesis epitope mapping is based on large-scale mutagenesis and rapid cellular testing of natively folded proteins. Hundreds of mutant plasmids are individually cloned, arrayed in 384-well microplates, expressed within human cells, and tested for mAb reactivity. Residues are identified as a component of a mAb epitope if their mutation (e.g. to alanine) does not support candidate mAb binding but does support that of other conformational mAbs or allows full protein function. Shotgun mutagenesis is particularly suited for studying structurally complex proteins because targets are expressed in their native form directly within human cells. Shotgun mutagenesis has been used to delineate hundreds of epitopes on a variety of proteins, including G protein-coupled receptor and viral envelope proteins. The epitopes mapped on dengue virus prM/E represent one of the largest collections of epitope information for any viral protein, and results are being used to design better vaccines and drugs.
The four dengue virus (DENV) serotypes, DENV-1, -2, -3, and -4, are endemic throughout tropical and subtropical regions of the world, with an estimated 390 million acute infections annually. Infection confers long-term protective immunity against the infecting serotype, but secondary infection with a different serotype carries a greater risk of potentially fatal severe dengue disease, including dengue hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome. The single most effective measure to control this threat to global health is a tetravalent DENV vaccine. To date, attempts to develop a protective vaccine have progressed slowly, partly because the targets of type-specific human neutralizing antibodies (NAbs), which are critical for long-term protection, remain poorly defined, impeding our understanding of natural immunity and hindering effective vaccine development. Here, we show that the envelope glycoprotein domain I/II hinge of DENV-3 and DENV-4 is the primary target of the long-term type-specific NAb response in humans. Transplantation of a DENV-4 hinge into a recombinant DENV-3 virus showed that the hinge determines the serotype-specific neutralizing potency of primary human and nonhuman primate DENV immune sera and that the hinge region both induces NAbs and is targeted by protective NAbs in rhesus macaques. These results suggest that the success of live dengue vaccines may depend on their ability to stimulate NAbs that target the envelope glycoprotein domain I/II hinge region. More broadly, this study shows that complex conformational antibody epitopes can be transplanted between live viruses, opening up similar possibilities for improving the breadth and specificity of vaccines for influenza, HIV, hepatitis C virus, and other clinically important viral pathogens.
Following natural dengue virus (DENV) infection, humans produce some antibodies that recognize only the serotype of infection (type specific) and others that cross-react with all four serotypes (cross-reactive). Recent studies with human antibodies indicate that type-specific antibodies at high concentrations are often strongly neutralizing in vitro and protective in animal models. In general, cross-reactive antibodies are poorly neutralizing and can enhance the ability of DENV to infect Fc receptor-bearing cells under some conditions. Type-specific antibodies at low concentrations also may enhance infection. There is an urgent need to determine whether there are conserved antigenic sites that can be recognized by cross-reactive potently neutralizing antibodies. Here, we describe the isolation of a large panel of naturally occurring human monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) directed to the DENV domain II fusion loop (FL) envelope protein region from subjects following vaccination or natural infection. Most of the FL-specific antibodies exhibited a conventional phenotype, characterized by low-potency neutralizing function and antibody-dependent enhancing activity. One clone, however, recognized the bc loop of domain II adjacent to the FL and exhibited a unique phenotype of ultrahigh potency, neutralizing all four serotypes better than any other previously described MAb recognizing this region. This antibody not only neutralized DENV effectively but also competed for binding against the more prevalent poor-quality antibodies whose binding was focused on the FL. The 1C19 human antibody could be a promising component of a preventative or therapeutic intervention. Furthermore, the unique epitope revealed by 1C19 suggests a focus for rational vaccine design based on novel immunogens presenting cross-reactive neutralizing determinants.
A number of structures have been solved for the Envelope (E) protein from dengue virus and closely related flaviviruses, providing detailed pictures of the conformational states of the protein at different stages of infectivity. However, the key functional residues responsible for mediating the dynamic changes between these structures remain largely unknown. Using a comprehensive library of functional point mutations covering all 390 residues of the dengue virus E protein ectodomain, we identified residues that are critical for virus infectivity, but that do not affect E protein expression, folding, virion assembly, or budding. The locations and atomic interactions of these critical residues within different structures representing distinct fusogenic conformations help to explain how E protein (i) regulates fusion-loop exposure by shielding, tethering, and triggering its release; (ii) enables hinge movements between E domain interfaces during triggered structural transformations; and (iii) drives membrane fusion through late-stage zipper contacts with stem. These results provide structural targets for drug and vaccine development and integrate the findings from structural studies and isolated mutagenesis efforts into a cohesive model that explains how specific residues in this class II viral fusion protein enable virus infectivity.
The mosquito-borne alphavirus, chikungunya virus (CHIKV), has recently reemerged, producing the largest epidemic ever recorded for this virus, with up to 6.5 million cases of acute and chronic rheumatic disease. There are currently no licensed vaccines for CHIKV and current anti-inflammatory drug treatment is often inadequate. Here we describe the isolation and characterization of two human monoclonal antibodies, C9 and E8, from CHIKV infected and recovered individuals. C9 was determined to be a potent virus neutralizing antibody and a biosensor antibody binding study demonstrated it recognized residues on intact CHIKV VLPs. Shotgun mutagenesis alanine scanning of 98 percent of the residues in the E1 and E2 glycoproteins of CHIKV envelope showed that the epitope bound by C9 included amino-acid 162 in the acid-sensitive region (ASR) of the CHIKV E2 glycoprotein. The ASR is critical for the rearrangement of CHIKV E2 during fusion and viral entry into host cells, and we predict that C9 prevents these events from occurring. When used prophylactically in a CHIKV mouse model, C9 completely protected against CHIKV viremia and arthritis. We also observed that when administered therapeutically at 8 or 18 hours post-CHIKV challenge, C9 gave 100% protection in a pathogenic mouse model. Given that targeting this novel neutralizing epitope in E2 can potently protect both in vitro and in vivo, it is likely to be an important region both for future antibody and vaccine-based interventions against CHIKV.
The influenza virus M2 protein is a well-validated yet underexploited proton-selective ion channel essential for influenza virus infectivity. Because M2 is a toxic viral ion channel, existing M2 inhibitors have been discovered through live virus inhibition or medicinal chemistry rather than M2-targeted high-throughput screening (HTS), and direct measurement of its activity has been limited to live cells or reconstituted lipid bilayers. Here, we describe a cell-free ion channel assay in which M2 ion channels are incorporated into virus-like particles (VLPs) and proton conductance is measured directly across the viral lipid bilayer, detecting changes in membrane potential, ion permeability, and ion channel function. Using this approach in high-throughput screening of over 100,000 compounds, we identified 19 M2-specific inhibitors, including two novel chemical scaffolds that inhibit both M2 function and influenza virus infectivity. Counterscreening for nonspecific disruption of viral bilayer ion permeability also identified a broad-spectrum antiviral compound that acts by disrupting the integrity of the viral membrane. In addition to its application to M2 and potentially other ion channels, this technology enables direct measurement of the electrochemical and biophysical characteristics of viral membranes.
Although prior studies have characterized the neutralizing activities of monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) against dengue virus (DENV) serotypes 1, 2, and 3 (DENV-1, DENV-2, and DENV-3), few reports have assessed the activity of MAbs against DENV-4. Here, we evaluated the inhibitory activity of 81 new mouse anti-DENV-4 MAbs. We observed strain- and genotype-dependent differences in neutralization of DENV-4 by MAbs mapping to epitopes on domain II (DII) and DIII of the envelope (E) protein. Several anti-DENV-4 MAbs inefficiently inhibited at least one strain and/or genotype, suggesting that the exposure or sequence of neutralizing epitopes varies within isolates of this serotype. Remarkably, flavivirus cross-reactive MAbs, which bound to the highly conserved fusion loop in DII and inhibited infection of DENV-1, DENV-2, and DENV-3, more weakly neutralized five different DENV-4 strains encompassing the genetic diversity of the serotype after preincubation at 37°C. However, increasing the time of preincubation at 37°C or raising the temperature to 40°C enhanced the potency of DII fusion loop-specific MAbs and some DIII-specific MAbs against DENV-4 strains. Prophylaxis studies in two new DENV-4 mouse models showed that neutralization titers of MAbs after preincubation at 37°C correlated with activity in vivo. Our studies establish the complexity of MAb recognition against DENV-4 and suggest that differences in epitope exposure relative to other DENV serotypes affect antibody neutralization and protective activity.
The role of CD8(+) T cells in dengue virus infection and subsequent disease manifestations is not fully understood. According to the original antigenic sin theory, skewing of T-cell responses induced by primary infection with one serotype causes less effective response upon secondary infection with a different serotype, predisposing individuals to severe disease. A comprehensive analysis of CD8(+) responses in the general population from the Sri Lankan hyperendemic area, involving the measurement of ex vivo IFN? responses associated with more than 400 epitopes, challenges the original antigenic sin theory. Although skewing of responses toward primary infecting viruses was detected, this was not associated with impairment of responses either qualitatively or quantitatively. Furthermore, we demonstrate higher magnitude and more polyfunctional responses for HLA alleles associated with decreased susceptibility to severe disease, suggesting that a vigorous response by multifunctional CD8(+) T cells is associated with protection from dengue virus disease.
The lack of reliable, high-throughput tools for characterizing anti-dengue virus (DENV) antibodies in large numbers of serum samples has been an obstacle in understanding the impact of neutralizing antibodies on disease progression and vaccine efficacy. A reporter system using pseudoinfectious DENV reporter virus particles (RVPs) was previously developed by others to facilitate the genetic manipulation and biological characterization of DENV virions. In the current study, we demonstrate the diagnostic utility of DENV RVPs for measuring neutralizing antibodies in human serum samples against all four DENV serotypes, with attention to the suitability of DENV RVPs for large-scale, long-term studies. DENV RVPs used against human sera yielded serotype-specific responses and reproducible neutralization titers that were in statistical agreement with Plaque Reduction Neutralization Test (PRNT) results. DENV RVPs were also used to measure neutralization titers against the four DENV serotypes in a panel of human sera from a clinical study of dengue patients. The high-throughput capability, stability, rapidity, and reproducibility of assays using DENV RVPs offer advantages for detecting immune responses that can be applied to large-scale clinical studies of DENV infection and vaccination.
Bitter taste stimuli are detected by a diverse family of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) expressed in gustatory cells. Each bitter taste receptor (TAS2R) responds to an array of compounds, many of which are toxic and can be found in nature. For example, human TAS2R16 (hTAS2R16) responds to ?-glucosides such as salicin, and hTAS2R38 responds to thiourea-containing molecules such as glucosinolates and phenylthiocarbamide (PTC). While many substances are known to activate TAS2Rs, only one inhibitor that specifically blocks bitter receptor activation has been described. Here, we describe a new inhibitor of bitter taste receptors, p-(dipropylsulfamoyl)benzoic acid (probenecid), that acts on a subset of TAS2Rs and inhibits through a novel, allosteric mechanism of action. Probenecid is an FDA-approved inhibitor of the Multidrug Resistance Protein 1 (MRP1) transporter and is clinically used to treat gout in humans. Probenecid is also commonly used to enhance cellular signals in GPCR calcium mobilization assays. We show that probenecid specifically inhibits the cellular response mediated by the bitter taste receptor hTAS2R16 and provide molecular and pharmacological evidence for direct interaction with this GPCR using a non-competitive (allosteric) mechanism. Through a comprehensive analysis of hTAS2R16 point mutants, we define amino acid residues involved in the probenecid interaction that result in decreased sensitivity to probenecid while maintaining normal responses to salicin. Probenecid inhibits hTAS2R16, hTAS2R38, and hTAS2R43, but does not inhibit the bitter receptor hTAS2R31 or non-TAS2R GPCRs. Additionally, structurally unrelated MRP1 inhibitors, such as indomethacin, fail to inhibit hTAS2R16 function. Finally, we demonstrate that the inhibitory activity of probenecid in cellular experiments translates to inhibition of bitter taste perception of salicin in humans. This work identifies probenecid as a pharmacological tool for understanding the cell biology of bitter taste and as a lead for the development of broad specificity bitter blockers to improve nutrition and medical compliance.
Membrane proteins, such as G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) and ion channels, represent important but technically challenging targets for the management of pain and other diseases. Studying their interactions has enabled the development of new therapeutics, diagnostics, and research reagents, but biophysical manipulation of membrane proteins is often difficult because of the requirement of most membrane proteins for an intact lipid bilayer. Here, we describe the use of virus-like particles as presentation vehicles for cellular membrane proteins ("Lipoparticles"). The methods for using Lipoparticles on optical biosensors, such as the BioRad ProteOn XPR36, are discussed as a means to characterize the kinetics, affinity, and specificity of antibody interactions using surface plasmon resonance detection.
Epitopes that define the immunodominant regions of conformationally complex integral membrane proteins have been difficult to reliably delineate. Here, a high-throughput approach termed shotgun mutagenesis was used to map the binding epitopes of five different monoclonal antibodies targeting the GPCR CCR5. The amino acids, and in some cases the atoms, that comprise the critical contact points of each epitope were identified, defining the immunodominant structures of this GPCR and their physicochemistry.
There are no available vaccines for dengue, the most important mosquito-transmitted viral disease. Mechanistic studies with anti-dengue virus (DENV) human monoclonal antibodies (hMAbs) provide a rational approach to identify and characterize neutralizing epitopes on DENV structural proteins that can serve to inform vaccine strategies. Here, we report a class of hMAbs that is likely to be an important determinant in the human humoral response to DENV infection. In this study, we identified and characterized three broadly neutralizing anti-DENV hMAbs: 4.8A, D11C, and 1.6D. These antibodies were isolated from three different convalescent patients with distinct histories of DENV infection yet demonstrated remarkable similarities. All three hMAbs recognized the E glycoprotein with high affinity, neutralized all four serotypes of DENV, and mediated antibody-dependent enhancement of infection in Fc receptor-bearing cells at subneutralizing concentrations. The neutralization activities of these hMAbs correlated with a strong inhibition of virus-liposome and intracellular fusion, not virus-cell binding. We mapped epitopes of these antibodies to the highly conserved fusion loop region of E domain II. Mutations at fusion loop residues W101, L107, and/or G109 significantly reduced the binding of the hMAbs to E protein. The results show that hMAbs directed against the highly conserved E protein fusion loop block viral entry downstream of virus-cell binding by inhibiting E protein-mediated fusion. Characterization of hMAbs targeting this region may provide new insights into DENV vaccine and therapeutic strategies.
To better understand how detergents disrupt enveloped viruses, we monitored the biophysical stability of murine leukemia virus (MLV) virus-like particles (VLPs) against a panel of commonly used detergents using real-time biosensor measurements. Although exposure to many detergents, such as Triton X-100 and Empigen, results in lysis of VLP membranes, VLPs appeared resistant to complete membrane lysis by a significant number of detergents, including Tween 20, Tween 80, Lubrol, and Saponin. VLPs maintained their structural integrity after exposure to Tween 20 at concentrations up to 500-fold above its CMC. Remarkably, VLPs containing immature cores composed of unprocessed (uncleaved) Gag polyprotein were significantly more resistant to detergent lysis than VLPs with mature cores. Although the maturity of retroviral Gag is known to influence the stability of the protein core structure itself, our studies suggest that the maturity of the Gag core also influences the stability of the lipid bilayer surrounding the core.
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