Summary: Humoral responses to the HIV-1 envelope were investigated in 30 human volunteers enrolled in a phase I vaccine therapy trial of rgp 160 (LAI/ LAV) using two techniques that emphasize detection of antibody response against linear (continuous) epitopes: immunoblotting and PEPSCAN. Seven fusion proteins containing large portions from constant regions 1, 2, 3, and 5, and variable region 3 of gp 120 and two regions in the transmembrane protein, gp41, were employed in immunoblots to quantitatively measure immune response as a function of immunization. In addition, the entire gp160 (LAI/LAV) envelope protein was constructed in duplicate sets of 211 overlapping 12-mer peptides to fine-map the changes. Immunoblotting defined significant changes in reactivity to epitopes in constant regions; of 28 volunteers completing the trial, the percentage with reactivity against CI changed from 62 to 100%; for C2, from 0 to 46%; for C3, from 0 to 82%; and for a constant region in gp41, from 25 to 68%. PEPSCAN on a subset (n = 8) of these volunteers identified new reactivity to epitopes throughout the envelope, concentrated in VI, C3, and C5 in gp120 and several peptides in gp41. Completely immunized patients responded to double the number of linear epitopes compared with two patients receiving alum alone. The results verify that the response to rgp160 is significantly broadened after immunization, providing additional evidence that HIV-1-infected volunteers can expand their antibody repertoire against a protein from a pathogen during chronic infection with that same pathogen. These results expand those previously obtained in this patient cohort, by defining explicitly the immunogenic regions recognized postvaccination and by providing methodology for quantitating those changes.
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