Because of the genetic variability of the HIV-1 envelope glycoproteins (Env), the elicitation of neutralizing Abs to conserved neutralization determinants including the primary receptor binding site, CD4 binding site (CD4bs), is a major focus of vaccine development. To gain insight into the evolution of Env-elicited Ab responses, we used single B cell analysis to interrogate the memory B cell Ig repertoires from two rhesus macaques after five serial immunizations with Env/adjuvant. We observed that the CD4bs-specific repertoire displayed unique features in the third CDR of Ig H chains with minor alterations along the immunization course. Progressive affinity maturation occurred as evidenced by elevated levels of somatic hypermutation (SHM) in Ab sequences isolated at the late immunization time point compared with the early time point. Abs with higher SHM were associated with increased binding affinity and virus neutralization capacity. Moreover, a notable portion of the CD4bs-specific repertoire was maintained between early and late immunization time points, suggesting that persistent clonal lineages were induced by Env vaccination. Furthermore, we found that the predominant persistent CD4bs-specific clonal lineages had larger population sizes and higher affinities than that from the rest of the repertoires, underscoring the critical role of Ag affinity selection in Ab maturation and clonal expansion. Genetic and functional analyses revealed that the accumulation of SHM in both framework regions and CDRs contributed to the clonal affinity and antigenicity evolution. Our longitudinal study provides high-resolution understanding of the dynamically evolving CD4bs-specific B cell response after Env immunization in primates.
Copyright © 2016 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.