Distinct mechanisms regulate exposure of neutralizing epitopes in the V2 and V3 loops of HIV-1 envelope

Chitra Upadhyay, Luzia M. Mayr, Jing Zhang, Rajnish Kumar, Miroslaw K. Gorny, Arthur Nádas, Susan Zolla-Pazner, Catarina E. Hioe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Broadly neutralizing antibodies targeting the HIV-1 envelope (Env) are key components for protection against HIV-1. However, many cross-reactive epitopes are often occluded. This study investigates the mechanisms contributing to the masking of V2i (variable loop V2 integrin) epitopes compared to the accessibility of V3 epitopes. V2i are conformation-dependent epitopes encompassing the integrin α4β7-binding motif on the V1V2 loop of HIV-1 Env gp120. The V2i monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) display extensive cross-reactivity with gp120 monomers from many subtypes but neutralize only few viruses, indicating V2i's cryptic nature. First, we asked whether CD4-induced Env conformational changes affect V2i epitopes similarly to V3. CD4 treatment of BaL and JRFL pseudoviruses increased their neutralization sensitivity to V3 MAbs but not to the V2i MAbs. Second, the contribution of N-glycans in masking V2i versus V3 epitopes was evaluated by testing the neutralization of pseudoviruses produced in the presence of a glycosidase inhibitor, kifunensine. Viruses grown in kifunensine were more sensitive to neutralization by V3 but not V2i MAbs. Finally, we evaluated the time-dependent dynamics of the V2i and V3 epitopes. Extending the time of virus-MAb interaction to 18 h before adding target cells increased virus neutralization by some V2i MAbs and all V3 MAbs tested. Consistent with this, V2i MAb binding to Env on the surface of transfected cells also increased in a time-dependent manner. Hence, V2i and V3 epitopes are highly dynamic, but distinct factors modulate the antibody accessibility of these epitopes. The study reveals the importance of the structural dynamics of V2i and V3 epitopes in determining HIV-1 neutralization by antibodies targeting these sites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12853-12865
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number21
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


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