UNLABELLED: Mucosal epithelial cell surface galactosylceramide (Galcer) has been postulated to be a receptor for HIV-1 envelope (Env) interactions with mucosal epithelial cells. Disruption of the HIV-1 Env interaction with such alternate receptors could be one strategy to prevent HIV-1 entry through the mucosal barrier. To study antibody modulation of HIV-1 Env-Galcer interactions, we used Galcer-containing liposomes to assess whether natural- and vaccine-induced monoclonal antibodies can block HIV-1 Env binding to Galcer. HIV-1 Env gp140 proteins bound to Galcer liposomes with Kds (dissociation constants) in the nanomolar range. Several HIV-1 ALVAC/AIDSVAX vaccinee-derived monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) specific for the gp120 first constant (C1) region blocked Galcer binding of a transmitted/founder HIV-1 Env gp140. Among the C1-specific MAbs that showed Galcer blocking, the antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity-mediating CH38 IgG and its natural IgA isotype were the most potent blocking antibodies. C1-specific IgG monoclonal antibodies that blocked Env binding to Galcer induced upregulation of the gp120 CD4-inducible (CD4i) epitope bound by MAb 17B, demonstrating that a conformational change in gp120 may be required for Galcer blocking. However, the MAb 17B itself did not block Env-Galcer binding, suggesting that the C1 antibody-induced gp120 conformational changes resulted in alteration in a Galcer binding site distant from the CD4i 17B MAb binding site.
IMPORTANCE: Galactosyl ceramide, a glycosphingolipid, has been postulated to be a receptor for the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env) interaction with mucosal epithelial cells. Here, we have mimicked this interaction by using an artificial membrane containing synthetic Galcer and recombinant HIV-1 Env proteins to identify antibodies that would block the HIV-1 Env-Galcer interaction. Our study revealed that a class of vaccine-induced human antibodies potently blocks HIV-1 Env-Galcer binding by perturbing the HIV-1 Env conformation.