Antibodies targeting the envelope of HIV-1

Luzia M. Mayr, Susan Zolla-Pazner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Antibodies (Abs) are a critical component of the human immune response against viral infections. In HIV-infected patients, a robust Ab response against the virus develops within months of infection; however, due to numerous strategies, the virus usually escapes the biological effects of the various Abs. Here we provide an overview of the different viral evasion mechanisms, including glycosylation, high mutation rate, and conformational masking by the envelope glycoproteins of the virus. In response to virus infection and to its evolution within a host, "conventional Abs" are generated, and these can also be induced by immunization; generally, these Abs are limited in their neutralization breadth and potency. In contrast, "exceptional Abs" require extended exposure to virus to generate the required hypermutation in the immunoglobulin variable regions, and they occur only in rare HIV-infected individuals, but they display impressive breadth and potency. In this review, we describe the major regions of the HIV envelope spike that are targeted by conventional and exceptional Abs. These include the first, second, and third variable loops (V1, V2, and V3) located at the apex of the envelope trimer, the CD4 binding site, and the membrane-proximal external region of the gp41 ectodomain. Lastly, we discuss the challenging task of HIV immunogen design and approaches for choosing which immunogens might be used to elicit protective Abs.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberAID-0025-2014
JournalMicrobiology spectrum
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


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