Purpose of review
Thirty years ago, investigators isolated and later determined the structure of HIV-1 and its envelope proteins. Using techniques that were effective with other viruses, they prepared vaccines designed to generate antibody or T-cell responses, but they were ineffective in clinical trials. In this article, we consider the role of complement in host defense against enveloped viruses, the role it might play in the antibody response and why complement has not controlled HIV-1 infection.
Complement consists of a large group of cell-bound and plasma proteins that are an integral part of the innate immune system. They provide a first line of defense against microbes and also play a role in the immune response. Here we review the studies of complement-mediated HIV destruction and the role of complement in the HIV antibody response.
HIV-1 has evolved a complex defense to prevent complement-mediated killing reviewed here. As part of these studies, we have discovered that HIV-1 envelope, on administration into animals, is rapidly broken down into small peptides that may prove to be very inefficient at provident the type of antigenic stimulation that leads to an effective immune response. Improving complement binding and stabilizing envelope may improve the vaccine response.