Although the B clade of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) envelopes (Env) includes five highly variable regions, each of these domains contains a subset of sequences that remain conserved. The V3 loop has been much studied for its ability to elicit neutralizing antibodies, which are often restricted to a limited number of closely related strains, likely because a large number of antigenic structures are generated from the diverse amino acid sequences in this region. Despite these strain-specific determinants, subregions of V3 are highly conserved, and the effects of different portions of the V3 loop on Env tropism and immunogenicity have not been well delineated. For this report, selective deletions in V3 were introduced by shortening of the stem of the V3 loop. These mutations were explored in combination with deletions of selected V regions. Progressive shortening of the stem of V3 abolished the immunogenicity as well as the functional activity of HIV Env; however, two small deletions on both arms of the V3 stem altered the tropism of the dualtropic 89.6P viral strain so that it infected only CXCR4+ cells. When this smaller deletion was combined with removal of the V1 and V2 loops and used as an immunogen in guinea pigs, the antisera were able to neutralize multiple independent clade B isolates with a higher potency. These findings suggest that highly conserved subregions within V3 may be relevant targets for eliciting neutralizing antibody responses, affecting HIV tropism, and increasing the immunogenicity of AIDS vaccines.
ASJC Scopus subject areas