Antibody VRC01 is a human immunoglobulin that neutralizes about 90% of HIV-1 isolates. To understand how such broadly neutralizing antibodies develop, we used x-ray crystallography and 454 pyrosequencing to characterize additional VRC01-like antibodies from HIV-1-infected individuals. Crystal structures revealed a convergent mode of binding for diverse antibodies to the same CD4-binding-site epitope. A functional genomics analysis of expressed heavy and light chains revealed common pathways of antibody-heavy chain maturation, confined to the IGHV1-2*02 lineage, involving dozens of somatic changes, and capable of pairing with different light chains. Broadly neutralizing HIV-1 immunity associated with VRC01-like antibodies thus involves the evolution of antibodies to a highly affinity-matured state required to recognize an invariant viral structure, with lineages defined from thousands of sequences providing a genetic roadmap of their development.
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