Antibodies from Rabbits Immunized with HIV-1 Clade B SOSIP Trimers Can Neutralize Multiple Clade B Viruses by Destabilizing the Envelope Glycoprotein

J Virol. 2021 Aug 10;95(17):e0009421. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00094-21. Epub 2021 Aug 10.


The high viral diversity of HIV-1 is a formidable hurdle for the development of an HIV-1 vaccine. Elicitation of broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) would offer a solution, but so far immunization strategies have failed to efficiently elicit bNAbs. To overcome these obstacles, it is important to understand the immune responses elicited by current HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env) immunogens. To gain more insight, we characterized monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) isolated from rabbits immunized with Env SOSIP trimers based on the clade B isolate AMC008. Four rabbits that were immunized three times with AMC008 trimer developed robust autologous and sporadic low-titer heterologous neutralizing responses. Seventeen AMC008 trimer-reactive MAbs were isolated using antigen-specific single B-cell sorting. Four of these MAbs neutralized the autologous AMC008 virus and several other clade B viruses. When visualized by electron microscopy, the complex of the neutralizing MAbs with the AMC008 trimer showed binding to the gp41 subunit with unusual approach angles, and we observed that their neutralization ability depended on their capacity to induce Env trimer dissociation. Thus, AMC008 SOSIP trimer immunization induced clade B-neutralizing MAbs with unusual approach angles with neutralizing effects that involve trimer destabilization. Optimizing these responses might provide an avenue to the induction of trimer-dissociating bNAbs. IMPORTANCE Roughly 32 million people have died as a consequence of HIV-1 infection since the start of the epidemic, and 1.7 million people still get infected with HIV-1 annually. Therefore, a vaccine to prevent HIV-1 infection is urgently needed. Current HIV-1 immunogens are not able to elicit the broad immune responses needed to provide protection against the large variation of HIV-1 strains circulating globally. A better understanding of the humoral immune responses elicited by immunization with state-of-the-art HIV-1 immunogens should facilitate the design of improved HIV-1 vaccine candidates. We identified antibodies with the ability to neutralize multiple HIV-1 viruses by destabilization of the envelope glycoprotein. Their weak but consistent cross-neutralization ability indicates the potential of this epitope to elicit broad responses. The trimer-destabilizing effect of the neutralizing MAbs, combined with detailed characterization of the neutralization epitope, can be used to shape the next generation of HIV-1 immunogens to elicit improved humoral responses after vaccination.

Keywords: AMC008 SOSIP; HIV-1; approach angle; human immunodeficiency virus; monoclonal antibodies; trimer destabilization; vaccine.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • AIDS Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • AIDS Vaccines / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology*
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / immunology*
  • Glycoproteins / immunology
  • HIV Antibodies / immunology*
  • HIV Infections / immunology*
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • HIV Infections / virology
  • HIV-1 / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunization
  • Protein Multimerization
  • Rabbits
  • env Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus / chemistry
  • env Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus / immunology*


  • AIDS Vaccines
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Glycoproteins
  • HIV Antibodies
  • env Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus