BACKGROUND: The initial envelope (Env)-specific antibody response in acutely HIV-1-infected individuals and simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-infected rhesus monkeys (RMs) is dominated by non-neutralizing antibodies targeting Env gp41. In contrast, natural primate SIV hosts, such as African green monkeys (AGMs), develop a predominant Env gp120-specific antibody response to SIV infection. However, the fine-epitope specificity and function of SIV Env-specific plasma IgG, and their potential role on autologous virus co-evolution in SIV-infected AGMs and RMs remain unclear.
RESULTS: Unlike the dominant linear gp41-specific IgG responses in RMs, SIV-infected AGMs demonstrated a unique linear variable loop 2 (V2)-specific plasma IgG response that arose concurrently with high gp120-directed antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) activity, and SIVsab-infected cell binding responses during acute infection. Moreover, SIV variants isolated from SIV-infected AGMs exhibited high amino acid mutation frequencies within the Env V1V2 loop compared to those of RMs. Notably, the linear V2-specific IgG epitope in AGMs overlaps with an analogous region of the HIV V2 loop containing the K169 mutation epitope identified in breakthrough viruses from RV144 vaccinees.
CONCLUSION: Vaccine-elicited Env V2-specific IgG responses have been proposed as an immune correlate of reduced risk in HIV-1/SIV acquisition in humans and RMs. Yet the pathways to elicit these potentially-protective V2-specific IgG responses remain unclear. In this study, we demonstrate that SIV-infected AGMs, which are the natural hosts of SIV, exhibited high plasma linear V2-specific IgG binding responses that arose concurrently with SIV Env gp120-directed ADCC-mediating, and SIV-infected cell plasma IgG binding responses during acute SIV infection, which were not present in acutely SIV-infected RMs. The linear V2-specific antibody response in AGMs targets an overlapping epitope of the proposed site of vaccine-induced immune pressure defined in the moderately protective RV144 HIV-1 vaccine trial. Identifying host factors that control the early elicitation of Env V2-specific IgG and ADCC antibody responses in these natural SIV hosts could inform vaccination strategies aimed at rapidly inducing potentially-protective HIV-1 Env-specific responses in humans.