Research ArticleHIV

Mimicry of an HIV broadly neutralizing antibody epitope with a synthetic glycopeptide

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Science Translational Medicine  15 Mar 2017:
Vol. 9, Issue 381, eaai7521
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aai7521

Guiding anti-glycan antibodies

Although it typically evades the immune system, HIV does have sites of vulnerability that can be targeted in vaccine design. One such site is a glycan near the V3 loop of the envelope protein, but antibodies recognizing this epitope are often not detected in people infected with HIV. Alam et al. designed a synthetic glycopeptide that can identify B cells targeting this epitope and also used it to immunize macaques. Bonsignori et al. used this synthetic glycopeptide and other baits to study the V3-glycan antibody responses of an HIV-infected individual that developed broadly neutralizing antibodies. They also examined viral evolution over time and found clues as to why these types of antibodies do not develop more often. These tools and findings could pave the way for a vaccine that protects against diverse strains of HIV.


A goal for an HIV-1 vaccine is to overcome virus variability by inducing broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs). One key target of bnAbs is the glycan-polypeptide at the base of the envelope (Env) third variable loop (V3). We have designed and synthesized a homogeneous minimal immunogen with high-mannose glycans reflective of a native Env V3-glycan bnAb epitope (Man9-V3). V3-glycan bnAbs bound to Man9-V3 glycopeptide and native-like gp140 trimers with similar affinities. Fluorophore-labeled Man9-V3 glycopeptides bound to bnAb memory B cells and were able to be used to isolate a V3-glycan bnAb from an HIV-1–infected individual. In rhesus macaques, immunization with Man9-V3 induced V3-glycan-targeted antibodies. Thus, the Man9-V3 glycopeptide closely mimics an HIV-1 V3-glycan bnAb epitope and can be used to isolate V3-glycan bnAbs.

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