An important class of HIV-1 broadly neutralizing antibodies, termed the VRC01 class, targets the conserved CD4-binding site (CD4bs) of the envelope glycoprotein (Env). An engineered Env outer domain (OD) eOD-GT8 60-mer nanoparticle has been developed as a priming immunogen for eliciting VRC01-class precursors and is planned for clinical trials. However, a substantial portion of eOD-GT8-elicited antibodies target non-CD4bs epitopes, potentially limiting its efficacy. We introduced N-linked glycans into non-CD4bs surfaces of eOD-GT8 to mask irrelevant epitopes and evaluated these mutants in a mouse model that expressed diverse immunoglobulin heavy chains containing human IGHV1-2∗02, the germline VRC01 VH segment. Compared to the parental eOD-GT8, a mutant with five added glycans stimulated significantly higher proportions of CD4bs-specific serum responses and CD4bs-specific immunoglobulin G+ B cells including VRC01-class precursors. These results demonstrate that glycan masking can limit elicitation of off-target antibodies and focus immune responses to the CD4bs, a major target of HIV-1 vaccine design.
Keywords: CD4-binding site; HIV-1; VRC01; VRC01-class precursors; eOD-GT8; glycan masking; neutralizing antibody; single-cell sorting; transgenic mouse; vaccination.
Published by Elsevier Inc.