Recent reports have suggested that maternal antibodies to specific epitopes of the variable region 3 (V3 loop) of gp120 of HIV-1 might protect against perinatal transmission. In an attempt to confirm these findings, sera from 34 HIV-1-seropositive mothers, representing 13 episodes of mother-to-infant transmission and 23 episodes of non-transmission (two mothers had two pregnancies each during the study period), were tested for the presence of antibodies to various regions of the gp120 V3 loop. Synthetic peptides were generated from HIV-1 MN. Of the four peptides tested by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), only antibody to the C53 peptide (Env310-322, principal neutralizing determinant) was present in maternal sera. Antibody to the C53 sequence was present in 11 specimens from transmitting mothers and 21 from non-transmitting mothers (84.6 and 91.3%, respectively, P = 0.6). No reactivity was detected against the C51, C57, or C58 peptide sequences, located on the sides of the V3 loop. In an antigen-limited ELISA, only two specimens from transmitting mothers and two specimens from non-transmitting mothers had detectable 'high-affinity' antibodies to C53 at low antigen concentrations (15.4 and 8.7%, respectively; P = 0.6). Our results do not support previous reports that epitope-specific antibodies to the V3 loop peptides protect against perinatal transmission. Further research is required to determine whether any specific maternal humoral response might influence HIV-1 perinatal transmission.
(C) Lippincott-Raven Publishers.