Maturational characteristics of HIV-specific antibodies in viremic individuals

JCI Insight. 2016;1(3):e84610. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.84610. Epub 2016 Mar 17.


Despite the rare appearance of potent HIV-neutralizing mAbs in infected individuals requiring prolonged affinity maturation, little is known regarding this process in the majority of viremic individuals. HIV-infected individuals with chronic HIV viremia have elevated numbers of nonconventional tissue-like memory (TLM) B cells that predominate in blood over conventional resting memory (RM) B cells. Accordingly, we investigated affinity maturation in these 2 memory B cell populations. Analysis of IgG-expressing TLM B cells revealed a higher number of cell divisions compared with RM B cells; however, TLM B cells paradoxically displayed significantly lower frequencies of somatic hypermutation (SHM). To assess Ab reactivity in TLM and RM B cells, single-cell cloning was performed on HIV envelope CD4-binding site-sorted (CD4bs-sorted) B cells from 3 individuals with chronic HIV viremia. Several clonal families were present among the 127 cloned recombinant mAbs, with evidence of crosstalk between TLM and RM B cell populations that was largely restricted to non-VH4 families. Despite evidence of common origins, SHM frequencies were significantly decreased in TLM-derived mAbs compared with SHM frequencies in RM-derived mAbs. However, both cell populations had lower frequencies of SHMs than did broadly neutralizing CD4bs-specific mAbs. There was a significant correlation between SHM frequencies and the HIV-neutralizing capacities of the mAbs. Furthermore, HIV neutralization was significantly higher in the RM-derived mAbs compared with that seen in the TLM-derived mAbs, and both SHM frequencies and neutralizing capacity were lowest in TLM-derived mAbs with high polyreactivity. Thus, deficiencies in memory B cells that arise during chronic HIV viremia provide insight into the inadequacy of the Ab response in viremic individuals.