Objective: The objective of this study is to determine the breadth of HIV-1 Env-specific antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) in HIV controllers and HIV progressors with a view to design globally relevant HIV vaccines.
Design: The breadth of ADCC towards four major HIV-1 Env subtypes was measured in vitro for 11 HIV controllers and 11 HIV progressors.
Methods: Plasma from 11 HIV controllers (including long-term slow progressors, viremic controllers, elite controller and posttreatment controller) and 11 HIV progressors, mostly infected with HIV-1 subtype B, was analysed for ADCC responses. ADCC assays were performed against 10 HIV-1 gp120 and 8 gp140 proteins from four major HIV-1 subtypes (A, B, C and E) and 3 glycosylation-mutant gp140 proteins.
Results: ADCC-mediated natural killer cell activation was significantly broader (P = 0.02) and of higher magnitude (P < 0.001) in HIV controllers than in HIV progressors. HIV controllers also showed significantly higher magnitude of ADCC-mediated killing of Env-coated target cells than HIV progressors to both HIV-1 subtype B and the heterologous subtype E gp140 (P = 0.001). We found good ADCC reactivity to subtype B and E Envs, less cross-reactivity to subtype A and minimal cross-reactivity to subtype C Envs. Glycosylation-dependent ADCC epitopes comprise a significant proportion of the total Env-specific ADCC response, as evident from the reduction in ADCC to nonglycosylated form of HIV-1 gp140 (P = 0.004).
Conclusion: HIV controllers have robust ADCC responses that recognize a broad range of HIV-1 Env. Glycosylation of Env was found to be important for recognition of ADCC epitopes. Identifying conserved ADCC epitopes will assist in designing globally relevant ADCC-based HIV vaccines.