Broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) specific for conserved epitopes on the HIV-1 envelope (Env) are believed to be essential for protection against multiple HIV-1 clades. However, vaccines capable of stimulating the production of bNAbs remain a major challenge. Given that polyreactivity and autoreactivity are considered important characteristics of anti-HIV bNAbs, we designed an HIV vaccine incorporating the molecular adjuvants BAFF (B cell activating factor) and APRIL (a proliferation-inducing ligand) with the potential to facilitate the maturation of polyreactive and autoreactive B cells as well as to enhance the affinity and/or avidity of Env-specific antibodies. We designed recombinant DNA plasmids encoding soluble multitrimers of BAFF and APRIL using surfactant protein D as a scaffold, and we vaccinated mice with these molecular adjuvants using DNA and DNAprotein vaccination strategies. We found that immunization of mice with a DNA vaccine encoding BAFF or APRIL multitrimers, together with interleukin 12 (IL-12) and membrane-bound HIV-1 Env gp140, induced neutralizing antibodies against tier 1 and tier 2 (vaccine strain) viruses. The APRIL-containing vaccine was particularly effective at generating tier 2 neutralizing antibodies following a protein boost. These BAFF and APRIL effects coincided with an enhanced germinal center (GC) reaction, increased anti-gp120 antibody-secreting cells, and increased anti-gp120 functional avidity. Notably, BAFF and APRIL did not cause indiscriminate B cell expansion or an increase in total IgG. We propose that BAFF and APRIL multitrimers are promising molecular adjuvants for vaccines designed to induce bNAbs against HIV-1.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science