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Antigenic properties of the human immunodeficiency virus transmembrane glycoprotein during cell-cell fusion.
Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, University of Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland 21201, USA.
Journal of virology 2002;76(23):12123-34.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) entry is triggered by interactions between a pair of heptad repeats in the gp41 ectodomain, which convert a prehairpin gp41 trimer into a fusogenic three-hairpin bundle. Here we examined the disposition and antigenic nature of these structures during the HIV-mediated fusion of HeLa cells expressing either HIV(HXB2) envelope (Env cells) or CXCR4 and CD4 (target cells). Cell-cell fusion, indicated by cytoplasmic dye transfer, was allowed to progress for various lengths of time and then arrested. Fusion intermediates were then examined for reactivity with various monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) against immunogenic cluster I and cluster II epitopes in the gp41 ectodomain. All of these MAbs produced similar staining patterns indicative of reactivity with prehairpin gp41 intermediates or related structures. MAb staining was seen on Env cells only upon exposure to soluble CD4, CD4-positive, coreceptor-negative cells, or stromal cell-derived factor-treated target cells. In the fusion system, the MAbs reacted with the interfaces of attached Env and target cells within 10 min of coculture. MAb reactivity colocalized with the formation of gp120-CD4-coreceptor tricomplexes after longer periods of coculture, although reactivity was absent on cells exhibiting cytoplasmic dye transfer. Notably, the MAbs were unable to inhibit fusion even when allowed to react with soluble-CD4-triggered or temperature-arrested antigens prior to initiation of the fusion process. In comparison, a broadly neutralizing antibody, 2F5, which recognizes gp41 antigens in the HIV envelope spike, was immunoreactive with free Env cells and Env-target cell clusters but not with fused cells. Notably, exposure of the 2F5 epitope required temperature-dependent elements of the HIV envelope structure, as MAb binding occurred only above 19 degrees C. Overall, these results demonstrate that immunogenic epitopes, both neutralizing and nonneutralizing, are accessible on gp41 antigens prior to membrane fusion. The 2F5 epitope appears to depend on temperature-dependent elements on prefusion antigens, whereas cluster I and cluster II epitopes are displayed by transient gp41 structures. Such findings have important implications for HIV vaccine approaches based on gp41 intermediates.
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