Human Immunodeficiency Virus-1 Clade C (HIV-1C) dominates the AIDS epidemic in India, afflicting 2.1 million individuals within the country and more than 15 million people worldwide. Membrane proximal external region (MPER) is an attractive target for broadly neutralizing antibody (bNAb) based therapies. However, information on MPER sequence diversity from India is meagre due to limited sampling of primary viral sequences. In the present study, we examined the variation in MPER of HIV-1C from 24 individuals in Mumbai, India by high throughput sequencing of uncultured viral sequences. Deep sequencing of MPER (662-683; HXB2 envelope amino acid numbering) allowed quantification of intra-individual variation up to 65% at positions 662, 665, 668, 674 and 677 within this region. These variable positions included contact sites targeted by bNAbs 2F5, Z13e1, 4E10 as well as 10E8. Both major and minor epitope variants i.e. 'haplotypes' were generated for each sample dataset. A total of 23, 34 and 25 unique epitope haplotypes could be identified for bNAbs 2F5, Z13e1 and 4E10/10E8 respectively. Further analysis of 4E10 and 10E8 epitopes from our dataset and meta-analysis of previously reported HIV-1 sequences from India revealed 26 epitopes (7 India-specific), heretofore untested for neutralization sensitivity. Peptide-Ab docking predicted 13 of these to be non-binding to 10E8. ELISA, Surface Plasmon Resonance and peptide inhibition of HIV-1 neutralization assays were then performed which validated predicted weak/non-binding interactions for peptides corresponding to six of these epitopes. These results highlight the under-representation of 10E8 non-binding HIV-1C MPER sequences from India. Our study thus underscores the need for increased surveillance of primary circulating envelope sequences for development of efficacious bNAb-based interventions in India.
Keywords: 10E8; Broadly neutralizing antibodies; Deep sequencing; HIV-1 clade C; India; MPER.
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