Site-directed primary in vitro immunization: Production of HIV-1 neutralizing human monoclonal antibodies from lymphocytes obtained from seronegative donors
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The design of an in vitro immunization system based on a synthetic heterotope immunogen, which was a peptide containing both T- and B-cell epitopes, that elicited a neutralizing, primary human humoral immune response against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) is reported here. This heterotope construct contained the major neutralizing B-cell epitope, within the V3 region of glycoprotein 120 (gp120), linked to a promiscuous helper T- cell epitope of tetanus toxin. The peptide was used to induce a human humoral in vitro immune response against the V3 region, using lymphocytes obtained from healthy, sero-negative blood donors. The in vitro immunized peripheral blood lymphocytes were Epstein-Barr virus infected and the antibody response to the synthetic peptide was evaluated using a solid-phase ELISA with the recombinant C-terminal fragment of gp120 (pB1, amino acid residues 287 467, derived from the HIV-1 LAI isolate). The heterotope construct yielded a significant frequency of specifically immunized B cells, in contrast to the control immunizations with individual T and B epitopes mixtures of these epitopes or no immunogen at all. This approach allowed us to generate human monoclonal antibodies, using lymphocytes derived from sero-negative donors, that cross-neutralized several HIV-1 strains, inhibited syncytia formation as well as prevented spreading of the viral infection from cell to cell. Thus, site-directed in vitro immunization using synthetic heterotopes might prove valuable in the dissection and induction of a protective humoral immune response.