HIV-1 envelope (Env)-based vaccines have so far largely failed to induce antibodies that prevent HIV-1 infection. One factor proposed to limit the immunogenicity of cell-associated Env is its low level of expression on the cell surface, restricting accessibility to antibodies. Using a vaccinia prime/protein boost protocol in mice, we explored the immunologic effects of mutations in the Env cytoplasmic tail (CT) that increased surface expression, including partial truncation and ablation of a tyrosine-dependent endocytosis motif. After vaccinia primes, CT-modified Envs induced up to 7-fold higher gp120-specific IgG, and after gp120 protein boosts, they elicited up to 16-fold greater Tier-1 HIV-1 neutralizing antibody titers, although results were variable between isolates. These data indicate that the immunogenicity of HIV-1 Env in a prime/boost vaccine can be enhanced in a strain-dependent manner by CT mutations that increase Env surface expression, thus highlighting the importance of the prime in this vaccine format.
Keywords: Antibody; Cytoplasmic tail; Envelope; HIV; Vaccine; Vaccinia.
Copyright © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.