Understanding the coordination between humoral and cellular immune responses may be the key to developing protective vaccines, and because genetic studies of long-term HIV-1 nonprogressors have associated specific HLA-B alleles with spontaneous control of viral replication, this subject group presents an opportunity to investigate relationships between arms of the adaptive immune system. Given evidence suggesting that cellular immunity may play a role in viral suppression, we sought to determine whether and how the humoral immune response might vary among controllers. Significantly, Fc-mediated antibody effector functions have likewise been associated with durable viral control. In this study, we compared the effector function and biophysical features of HIV-specific antibodies in a cohort of controllers with and without protective HLA-B alleles in order to investigate whether there was evidence for multiple paths to HIV-1 control, or whether cellular and humoral arms of immunity might exhibit coordinated profiles. However, with the exception of IgG2 antibodies to gp41, HLA status was not associated with divergent humoral responses. This finding did not result from uniform antibody responses across subjects, as controllers could be regrouped according to strong differences in their HIV-specific antibody subclass specificity profiles. These divergent antibody profiles were further associated with significant differences in nonneutralizing antibody effector function, with levels of HIV-specific IgG1 acting as the major distinguishing factor. Thus, while HLA background among controllers was associated with minimal differences in humoral function, antibody subclass and specificity profiles were associated with divergent effector function, suggesting that these features could be used to make functional predictions. Because these nonneutralizing antibody activities have been associated with spontaneous viral control, reduced viral load, and nonprogression in infected subjects and protection in vaccinated subjects, understanding the specific features of IgGs with potentiated effector function may be critical to vaccine and therapeutic antibody development.
Importance: In this study, we investigated whether the humoral and cellular arms of adaptive immunity exhibit coordinated or compensatory activity by studying the antibody response among HIV-1 controllers with different genetic backgrounds.