HIV-1 neutralization requires Ab accessibility to the functional envelope glycoprotein (Env) spike. We recently reported the isolation of previously unidentified vaccine-elicited, CD4 binding site (CD4bs)-directed mAbs from rhesus macaques immunized with soluble Env trimers, indicating that this region is immunogenic in the context of subunit vaccination. To elucidate the interaction of the trimer-elicited mAbs with gp120 and their insufficient interaction with the HIV-1 primary isolate spike, we crystallized the Fab fragments of two mAbs, GE136 and GE148. Alanine scanning of their complementarity-determining regions, coupled with epitope scanning of their epitopes on gp120, revealed putative contact residues at the Ab/gp120 interface. Docking of the GE136 and GE148 Fabs to gp120, coupled with EM reconstructions of these nonbroadly neutralizing mAbs (non-bNAbs) binding to gp120 monomers and EM modeling to well-ordered trimers, suggested Ab approach to the CD4bs by a vertical angle of access relative to the more lateral mode of interaction used by the CD4bs-directed bNAbs VRC01 and PGV04. Fitting the structures into the available cryo-EM native spike density indicated clashes between these two vaccine-elicited mAbs and the topside variable region spike cap, whereas the bNAbs duck under this quaternary shield to access the CD4bs effectively on primary HIV isolates. These results provide a structural basis for the limited neutralizing breadth observed by current vaccine-induced, CD4bs-directed Abs and highlight the need for better ordered trimer immunogens. The analysis presented here therefore provides valuable information to guide HIV-1 vaccine immunogen redesign.
Keywords: NHP; mode of recognition; neutralizing antibodies.