Neutralizing antibody responses against autologous and heterologous viruses in acute versus chronic human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection: evidence for a constraint on the ability of HIV to completely evade neutralizing antibody responses

J Virol. 2006 Jun;80(12):6155-64. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00093-06.


Acute human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is associated with the rapid development of neutralization escape mutations. The degree to which viral evolution persists in chronic infection has not been well characterized, nor is it clear if all patients develop high-level neutralization antibody escape. We therefore measured neutralizing antibody responses against autologous and heterologous viruses in a cohort of acutely and chronically infected subjects (n = 65). Neutralizing antibody responses against both autologous virus and heterologous viruses were lower among individuals with acute infection than among those with chronic infection. Among chronically infected individuals, there was a negative correlation between the level of neutralizing antibodies against autologous virus and the level of viremia. In contrast, there was a positive correlation between the level of neutralizing antibodies against a panel of heterologous viruses and the level of viremia. Viral evolution, as defined by the presence of higher neutralizing titers directed against earlier viruses than against contemporaneous viruses, was evident for subjects with recent infection but absent for those with chronic infection. In summary, neutralizing antibody responses against contemporaneous autologous viruses are absent in early HIV infection but can be detected at low levels in chronic infection, particularly among those controlling HIV in the absence of therapy. HIV replication either directly or indirectly drives the production of increasing levels of antibodies that cross-neutralize heterologous primary isolates. Collectively, these observations indicate that although HIV continuously drives the production of neutralizing antibodies, there may be limits to the capacity of the virus to evolve continuously in response to these antibodies. These observations also suggest that the neutralizing antibody response may contribute to the long-term control of HIV in some patients while protecting against HIV superinfection in most patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Antibodies, Heterophile
  • Antibody Formation
  • Chronic Disease
  • HIV / immunology*
  • HIV Antibodies / biosynthesis*
  • HIV Infections / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Virus Replication / immunology


  • Antibodies, Heterophile
  • HIV Antibodies