Rational immunogen design aims to focus antibody responses to vulnerable sites on primary antigens. Given the size of these antigens, there is, however, potential for eliciting unwanted, off-target responses. Here, we use our electron microscopy polyclonal epitope mapping approach to describe the antibody specificities elicited by immunization of non-human primates with soluble HIV envelope trimers and subsequent repeated viral challenge. An increased diversity of epitopes recognized and the approach angle by which these antibodies bind constitute a hallmark of the humoral response in most protected animals. We also show that fusion peptide-specific antibodies are likely responsible for some neutralization breadth. Moreover, cryoelectron microscopy (cryo-EM) analysis of a fully protected animal reveals a high degree of clonality within a subset of putatively neutralizing antibodies, enabling a detailed molecular description of the antibody paratope. Our results provide important insights into the immune response against a vaccine candidate that entered into clinical trials in 2019.
Copyright © 2020 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.