Results from recent HIV-1 vaccine studies have indicated that high serum antibody (Ab) titers may not be necessary for Ab-mediated protection, and that Abs localized to mucosal sites might be critical for preventing infection. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) has been used for decades as the gold standard for Ab measurement, though recently, highly sensitive microsphere-based assays have become available, with potential utility for improved detection of Abs. In this study, we assessed the Bio-Plex(®) Suspension Array System for the detection of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-specific Abs in rhesus macaques (RMs) chronically infected with SIV, whose serum or mucosal SIV-specific Ab titers were negative by ELISA. We developed a SIVmac239-specific 4-plex bead array for the simultaneous detection of Abs binding to Env, Gag, Pol, and Nef. The 4-plex assay was used to quantify SIV-specific serum IgG and rectal swab IgA titers from control (SIV-naive) and SIVmac239-infected RMs. The Bio-Plex assay specifically detected anti-SIV Abs in specimens from SIV-infected animals for all four analytes when compared to SIV-naive control samples (p≤0.04). Furthermore, in 70% of Env and 79% of Gag ELISA-negative serum samples, specific Ab was detected using the Bio-Plex assay. Similarly, 71% of Env and 48% of Gag ELISA-negative rectal swab samples were identified as positive using the Bio-Plex assay. Importantly, assay specificity (i.e., probability of true positives) was comparable to ELISA (94%-100%). The results reported here indicate that microsphere-based methods provide a substantial improvement over ELISA for the detection of Ab responses, aid in detecting specific Abs when analyzing samples containing low levels of Abs, such as during the early stages of a vaccine trial, and may be valuable in attempts to link protective efficacy of vaccines with induced Ab responses.
Keywords: HIV; SIV; immunology; microbiology.