Identification of recombinant Fabs for structural and functional characterization of HIV-host factor complexes

PLoS One. 2021 May 13;16(5):e0250318. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0250318. eCollection 2021.


Viral infection and pathogenesis is mediated by host protein-viral protein complexes that are important targets for therapeutic intervention as they are potentially less prone to development of drug resistance. We have identified human, recombinant antibodies (Fabs) from a phage display library that bind to three HIV-host complexes. We used these Fabs to 1) stabilize the complexes for structural studies; and 2) facilitate characterization of the function of these complexes. Specifically, we generated recombinant Fabs to Vif-CBF-β-ELOB-ELOC (VCBC); ESCRT-I complex and AP2-complex. For each complex we measured binding affinities with KD values of Fabs ranging from 12-419 nM and performed negative stain electron microscopy (nsEM) to obtain low-resolution structures of the HIV-Fab complexes. Select Fabs were converted to scFvs to allow them to fold intracellularly and perturb HIV-host protein complex assembly without affecting other pathways. To identify these recombinant Fabs, we developed a rapid screening pipeline that uses quantitative ELISAs and nsEM to establish whether the Fabs have overlapping or independent epitopes. This pipeline approach is generally applicable to other particularly challenging antigens that are refractory to immunization strategies for antibody generation including multi-protein complexes providing specific, reproducible, and renewable antibody reagents for research and clinical applications. The curated antibodies described here are available to the scientific community for further structural and functional studies on these critical HIV host-factor proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies / metabolism
  • Endosomal Sorting Complexes Required for Transport / metabolism
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • HIV Infections / virology
  • HIV-1 / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin Fab Fragments / chemistry*
  • Immunoglobulin Fab Fragments / metabolism*
  • Multiprotein Complexes / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry*
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism*
  • Virus Replication / physiology


  • Antibodies
  • Endosomal Sorting Complexes Required for Transport
  • Immunoglobulin Fab Fragments
  • Multiprotein Complexes
  • Recombinant Proteins