Broad neutralization response in a subset of HIV-1 subtype C-infected viraemic non-progressors from southern India

J Gen Virol. 2018 Mar;99(3):379-392. doi: 10.1099/jgv.0.001016.


Broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) have been considered to be potent therapeutic tools and potential vaccine candidates to enable protection against various clades of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The generation of bnAbs has been associated with enhanced exposure to antigen, high viral load and low CD4+ T cell counts, among other factors. However, only limited data are available on the generation of bnAbs in viraemic non-progressors that demonstrate moderate to high viraemia. Further, since HIV-1 subtype C viruses account for more than 50 % of global HIV infections, the identification of bnAbs with novel specificities is crucial to enable the development of potent tools to aid in HIV therapy and prevention. In the present study, we analysed and compared the neutralization potential of responses in 70 plasma samples isolated from ART-naïve HIV-1 subtype C-infected individuals with various disease progression profiles against a panel of 30 pseudoviruses. Among the seven samples that exhibited a neutralization breadth of ≥70 %, four were identified as 'elite neutralizers', and three of these were from viraemic non-progressors while the fourth was from a typical progressor. Analysis of the neutralization specificities revealed that none of the four elite neutralizers were reactive to epitopes in the membrane proximal external region (MPER), CD4-binding site and V1V2 or V3 glycan. However, two of the four elite neutralizers exhibited enhanced sensitivity towards viruses lacking N332 glycan, indicating high neutralization potency. Overall, our findings indicate that the identification of potent neutralization responses with distinct epitope specificities is possible from the as yet unexplored Indian population, which has a high prevalence of HIV-1 subtype C infection.

Keywords: HIV-1 Subtype C; bnAbs; broad neutralizers; viremic non- progressors.