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Journal of virology
Functional optimization of broadly neutralizing HIV-1 antibody 10E8 by promotion of membrane interactions
Rujas, E., Leaman, D. P., Insausti, S., Ortigosa-Pascual, L., Zhang, L., Zwick, M. B., & Nieva, J. L.
The 10E8 antibody targets a helical epitope in the membrane-proximal external region (MPER) and transmembrane domain (TMD) of the envelope glycoprotein (Env) subunit gp41 and is among the broadest known neutralizing antibodies against HIV-1. Accordingly, this antibody and its mechanism of action valuably inform the design of effective vaccines and immunotherapies. 10E8 exhibits unusual adaptations to attain specific, high-affinity binding to the MPER at the viral membrane interface. Reversing the charge of the basic paratope surface (from net positive to net negative) reportedly lowered its neutralization potency. Here, we hypothesized that by increasing the net positive charge in similar polar surface patches, the neutralization potency of the antibody may be enhanced. We found that an increased positive charge at this paratope surface strengthened an electrostatic interaction between the antibody and lipid bilayers, enabling 10E8 to interact spontaneously with membranes. Notably, the modified 10E8 antibody did not gain any apparent polyreactivity and neutralized virus with a significantly greater potency. Binding analyses indicated that the optimized 10E8 antibody bound with a higher affinity to the epitope peptide anchored in lipid bilayers and to Env spikes on virions. Overall, our data provide a proof of principle for the rational optimization of 10E8 via manipulation of its interaction with the membrane element of its epitope. However, the observation that a similar mutation strategy did not affect the potency of the first-generation anti-MPER antibody 4E10 shows possible limitations of this principle. Altogether, our results emphasize the crucial role played by the viral membrane in the antigenicity of the MPER-TMD of HIV-1.