Virus-driven Inflammation Is Associated With the Development of bNAbs in Spontaneous Controllers of HIV

Clin Infect Dis. 2017 Apr 15;64(8):1098-1104. doi: 10.1093/cid/cix057.


Background: Understanding the mechanism(s) by which broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) emerge naturally following infection is crucial for the development of a protective vaccine against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Although previous studies have implicated high viremia and associated immune activation as potential drivers for the development of bNAbs, here we sought to unlink the effect of these 2 parameters by evaluating the key inflammatory predictors of bNAb development in HIV-infected individuals who spontaneously control HIV in the absence of antiretroviral therapy ("controllers").

Methods: The breadth of antibody-mediated neutralization against 11 tier 2 or 3 viruses was assessed in 163 clade B spontaneous controllers of HIV. Plasma levels of 17 cytokines were screened in the same set of subjects. The relationship of the inflammatory signature was assessed in the context of viral blips or viral RNA levels in peripheral blood or gastrointestinal biopsies from aviremic controllers (<50 copies RNA/mL) and in the context of viral sequence diversity analysis in the plasma of viremic controllers (<50-2000 copies RNA/mL).

Results: A unique inflammatory profile, including high plasma levels of CXCL13, sCD40L, IP10, RANTES, and TNFα, was observed in HIV controllers who developed bNAbs. Interestingly, viral load and tissue viremia, but not intermittent viral blips, were associated with these cytokine profiles. However, viral diversity was not significantly associated with increased breadth in controllers.

Conclusion: These results suggest that low antigenic diversity in the setting of a unique inflammatory profile associated with antigen persistence may be linked to the evolution of neutralizing antibody breadth.

Keywords: inflammation; neutralizing antibodies; HIV vaccine.

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / blood*
  • Cytokines / blood
  • HIV / immunology*
  • HIV Antibodies / blood*
  • HIV Infections / immunology*
  • HIV Infections / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / pathology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / virology
  • RNA, Viral / blood
  • Viral Load


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Cytokines
  • HIV Antibodies
  • RNA, Viral