Functional characterization of two scFv-Fc antibodies from an HIV controller selected on soluble HIV-1 Env complexes: A neutralizing V3- and a trimer-specific gp41 antibody
HIV neutralizing antibodies (nAbs) represent an important tool in view of prophylactic and therapeutic applications for HIV-1 infection. Patients chronically infected by HIV-1 represent a valuable source for nAbs. HIV controllers, including long-term non-progressors (LTNP) and elite controllers (EC), represent an interesting subgroup in this regard, as here nAbs can develop over time in a rather healthy immune system and in the absence of any therapeutic selection pressure. In this study, we characterized two particular antibodies that were selected as scFv antibody fragments from a phage immune library generated from an LTNP with HIV neutralizing antibodies in his plasma. The phage library was screened on recombinant soluble gp140 envelope (Env) proteins. Sequencing the selected peptide inserts revealed two major classes of antibody sequences. Binding analysis of the corresponding scFv-Fc derivatives to various trimeric and monomeric Env constructs as well as to peptide arrays showed that one class, represented by monoclonal antibody (mAb) A2, specifically recognizes an epitope localized in the pocket binding domain of the C heptad repeat (CHR) in the ectodomain of gp41, but only in the trimeric context. Thus, this antibody represents an interesting tool for trimer identification. MAb A7, representing the second class, binds to structural elements of the third variable loop V3 and neutralizes tier 1 and tier 2 HIV-1 isolates of different subtypes with matching critical amino acids in the linear epitope sequence. In conclusion, HIV controllers are a valuable source for the selection of functionally interesting antibodies that can be selected on soluble gp140 proteins with properties from the native envelope spike.