A substantial proportion of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-infected individuals has cross-reactive neutralizing activity in serum, with a similar prevalence in progressors and long-term nonprogressors (LTNP). We studied whether disease progression in the face of cross-reactive neutralizing serum activity is due to fading neutralizing humoral immunity over time or to viral escape. In three LTNP and three progressors, high-titer cross-reactive HIV-1-specific neutralizing activity in serum against a multiclade pseudovirus panel was preserved during the entire clinical course of infection, even after AIDS diagnosis in progressors. However, while early HIV-1 variants from all six individuals could be neutralized by autologous serum, the autologous neutralizing activity declined during chronic infection. This could be attributed to viral escape and the apparent inability of the host to elicit neutralizing antibodies to the newly emerging viral escape variants. Escape from autologous neutralizing activity was not associated with a reduction in the viral replication rate in vitro. Escape from autologous serum with cross-reactive neutralizing activity coincided with an increase in the length of the variable loops and in the number of potential N-linked glycosylation sites in the viral envelope. Positive selection pressure was observed in the variable regions in envelope, suggesting that, at least in these individuals, these regions are targeted by humoral immunity with cross-reactive potential. Our results may imply that the ability of HIV-1 to rapidly escape cross-reactive autologous neutralizing antibody responses without the loss of viral fitness is the underlying explanation for the absent effect of potent cross-reactive neutralizing humoral immunity on the clinical course of infection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science