VRC01-class antibodies neutralize diverse HIV-1 strains by targeting the conserved CD4-binding site. Despite extensive investigations, crucial events in the early stage of VRC01 development remain elusive. We demonstrated how VRC01-class antibodies emerged in a Chinese donor by antigen-specific single B cell sorting, structural and functional studies, and longitudinal antibody and virus repertoire analyses. A monoclonal antibody DRVIA7 with modest neutralizing breadth was isolated that displayed a subset of VRC01 signatures. X-ray and EM structures revealed a VRC01-like angle of approach, but less favorable interactions between the DRVIA7 light-chain CDR1 and the N terminus with N276 and V5 glycans of gp120. Although the DRVIA7 lineage was unable to acquire broad neutralization, longitudinal analysis revealed a repertoire-encoded VRC01 light-chain CDR3 signature and VRC01-like neutralizing heavy-chain precursors that rapidly matured within 2 years. Thus, light chain accommodation of the glycan shield should be taken into account in vaccine design targeting this conserved site of vulnerability.
Keywords: B cell development; CD4-binding site; HIV infection; VRC01 class; antibody maturation; broadly neutralizing antibodies; glycan shield; gp120; rational vaccine design; virus-host co-evolution.
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