The neutralizing antibody response to influenza virus is dominated by antibodies that bind to the globular head of haemagglutinin, which undergoes a continuous antigenic drift, necessitating the re-formulation of influenza vaccines on an annual basis. Recently, several laboratories have described a new class of rare influenza-neutralizing antibodies that target a conserved site in the haemagglutinin stem. Most of these antibodies use the heavy-chain variable region VH1-69 gene, and structural data demonstrate that they bind to the haemagglutinin stem through conserved heavy-chain complementarity determining region (HCDR) residues. However, the VH1-69 antibodies are highly mutated and are produced by some but not all individuals, suggesting that several somatic mutations may be required for their development. To address this, here we characterize 197 anti-stem antibodies from a single donor, reconstruct the developmental pathways of several VH1-69 clones and identify two key elements that are required for the initial development of most VH1-69 antibodies: a polymorphic germline-encoded phenylalanine at position 54 and a conserved tyrosine at position 98 in HCDR3. Strikingly, in most cases a single proline to alanine mutation at position 52a in HCDR2 is sufficient to confer high affinity binding to the selecting H1 antigen, consistent with rapid affinity maturation. Surprisingly, additional favourable mutations continue to accumulate, increasing the breadth of reactivity and making both the initial mutations and phenylalanine at position 54 functionally redundant. These results define VH1-69 allele polymorphism, rearrangement of the VDJ gene segments and single somatic mutations as the three requirements for generating broadly neutralizing VH1-69 antibodies and reveal an unexpected redundancy in the affinity maturation process.
Broadly neutralizing antibodies reactive against most and even all variants of the same viral species have been described for influenza and HIV-1 (ref. 1). However, whether a neutralizing antibody could have the breadth of range to target different viral species was unknown. Human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV) and human metapneumovirus (HMPV) are common pathogens that cause severe disease in premature newborns, hospitalized children and immune-compromised patients, and play a role in asthma exacerbations. Although antisera generated against either HRSV or HMPV are not cross-neutralizing, we speculated that, because of the repeated exposure to these viruses, cross-neutralizing antibodies may be selected in some individuals. Here we describe a human monoclonal antibody (MPE8) that potently cross-neutralizes HRSV and HMPV as well as two animal paramyxoviruses: bovine RSV (BRSV) and pneumonia virus of mice (PVM). In its germline configuration, MPE8 is HRSV-specific and its breadth is achieved by somatic mutations in the light chain variable region. MPE8 did not result in the selection of viral escape mutants that evaded antibody targeting and showed potent prophylactic efficacy in animal models of HRSV and HMPV infection, as well as prophylactic and therapeutic efficacy in the more relevant model of lethal PVM infection. The core epitope of MPE8 was mapped on two highly conserved anti-parallel ?-strands on the pre-fusion viral F protein, which are rearranged in the post-fusion F protein conformation. Twenty-six out of the thirty HRSV-specific neutralizing antibodies isolated were also found to be specific for the pre-fusion F protein. Taken together, these results indicate that MPE8 might be used for the prophylaxis and therapy of severe HRSV and HMPV infections and identify the pre-fusion F protein as a candidate HRSV vaccine.
The isolation of broadly neutralizing antibodies against influenza A viruses has been a long-sought goal for therapeutic approaches and vaccine design. Using a single-cell culture method for screening large numbers of human plasma cells, we isolated a neutralizing monoclonal antibody that recognized the hemagglutinin (HA) glycoprotein of all 16 subtypes and neutralized both group 1 and group 2 influenza A viruses. Passive transfer of this antibody conferred protection to mice and ferrets. Complexes with HAs from the group 1 H1 and the group 2 H3 subtypes analyzed by x-ray crystallography showed that the antibody bound to a conserved epitope in the F subdomain. This antibody may be used for passive protection and to inform vaccine design because of its broad specificity and neutralization potency.
Neutralizing antibodies have been shown to protect macaques against SHIV challenge. However, genetically diverse HIV-1 clades have evolved, and a key question left unanswered is whether neutralizing antibodies can confer cross-clade protection in vivo. The novel human monoclonal antibody HGN194 was isolated from an individual infected with an HIV-1 clade AG recombinant circulating recombinant form (CRF). HGN194 targets an epitope in the third hypervariable loop (V3) of HIV-1 gp120 and neutralizes a range of relatively neutralization-sensitive and resistant viruses. We evaluated the potential of HGN194 to protect infant rhesus monkeys against a SHIV encoding a primary CCR5-tropic HIV-1 clade C envelope. After high-dose mucosal challenge, all untreated controls became highly viremic while all HGN194-treated animals (50 mg/kg) were completely protected. When HGN194 was given at 1 mg/kg, one out of two monkeys remained aviremic, whereas the other had delayed, lower peak viremia. Interestingly, all protected monkeys given high-dose HGN194 developed Gag-specific proliferative responses of both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells. To test whether generation of the latter involved cryptic infection, we ablated CD8+ cells after HGN194 clearance. No viremia was detected in any protected monkeys, thus ruling out virus reservoirs. Thus, induction of CD8 T-cell immunity may have resulted from transient "Hit and Run" infection or cross priming via Ag-Ab-mediated cross-presentation. Together, our data identified the HGN194 epitope as protective and provide proof-of-concept that this anti-V3 loop mAb can prevent infection with sterilizing immunity after challenge with virus of a different clade, implying that V3 is a potential vaccine target.
The human monoclonal antibody (mAb) HK20 neutralizes a broad spectrum of primary HIV-1 isolates by targeting the highly conserved heptad repeat 1 (HR1) of gp41, which is transiently exposed during HIV-1 entry. Here we present the crystal structure of the HK20 Fab in complex with a gp41 mimetic 5-Helix at 2.3 Å resolution. HK20 employs its heavy chain CDR H2 and H3 loops to bind into a conserved hydrophobic HR1 pocket that is occupied by HR2 residues in the gp41 post fusion conformation. Compared to the previously described HR1-specific mAb D5, HK20 approaches its epitope with a different angle which might favor epitope access and thus contribute to its higher neutralization breadth and potency. Comparison of the neutralization activities of HK20 IgG, Fab and scFv employing both single cycle and multiple cycle neutralization assays revealed much higher potencies for the smaller Fab and scFv over IgG, implying that the target site is difficult to access for complete antibodies. Nevertheless, two thirds of sera from HIV-1 infected individuals contain significant titers of HK20-inhibiting antibodies. The breadth of neutralization of primary isolates across all clades, the higher potencies for C-clade viruses and the targeting of a distinct site as compared to the fusion inhibitor T-20 demonstrate the potential of HK20 scFv as a therapeutic tool.
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