Enhancing glycan occupancy of soluble HIV-1 envelope trimers to mimic the native viral spike

Cell Rep. 2021 Apr 6;35(1):108933. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2021.108933.


Artificial glycan holes on recombinant Env-based vaccines occur when a potential N-linked glycosylation site (PNGS) is under-occupied, but not on their viral counterparts. Native-like SOSIP trimers, including clinical candidates, contain such holes in the glycan shield that induce strain-specific neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) or non-NAbs. To eliminate glycan holes and mimic the glycosylation of native BG505 Env, we replace all 12 NxS sequons on BG505 SOSIP with NxT. All PNGS, except N133 and N160, are nearly fully occupied. Occupancy of the N133 site is increased by changing N133 to NxS, whereas occupancy of the N160 site is restored by reverting the nearby N156 sequon to NxS. Hence, PNGS in close proximity, such as in the N133-N137 and N156-N160 pairs, affect each other's occupancy. We further apply this approach to improve the occupancy of several Env strains. Increasing glycan occupancy should reduce off-target immune responses to vaccine antigens.

Keywords: HIV-1 vaccine research; cryo-EM; glycan occupancy; mass spectrometry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CHO Cells
  • Cricetulus
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy
  • Glycosylation
  • HEK293 Cells
  • HIV-1 / metabolism*
  • Hexosyltransferases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Models, Molecular
  • Polysaccharides / chemistry
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism*
  • Protein Multimerization*
  • Solubility
  • env Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus / chemistry*
  • env Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus / metabolism*
  • env Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus / ultrastructure


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Polysaccharides
  • env Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus
  • Hexosyltransferases
  • dolichyl-diphosphooligosaccharide - protein glycotransferase