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Keywords:

  • broadly neutralizing antibodies;
  • HIV neutralization;
  • gp41 MPER;
  • 2F5;
  • 4E10;
  • peptide vaccines

Abstract

The conserved membrane proximal external region (MPER), adjacent to the transmembrane domain (TMD) of human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1) gp41 glycoprotein subunit, is accessible to the broadly neutralizing 4E10 and 2F5 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) and, therefore, constitutes a potential target for vaccine design. This gp41 domain is postulated to be functional during the Env glycoprotein-mediated fusion reaction by destabilizing the highly rigid viral envelope. To perform this task, the aromatic-rich MPER is believed to insert into the interfacial region of the viral membrane external monolayer, thereby inducing the restructuring of the lipid bilayer required for fusion–pore opening. This model predicts that: (i) 2F5 and 4E10 mAbs are capable of binding epitopes inserted into the membrane interface; (ii) in-membrane binding will result in effective blocking of MPER membrane activity; and (iii) both processes, in-membrane recognition and blocking of membrane activity, can be modulated by altering both the lipid composition and the MPER amino acid sequence. We review here recently reported experimental data consistent with those predictions, and further speculate on their relevance for prospective anti-HIV vaccine development. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.