Across Functional Boundaries: Making Nonneutralizing Antibodies to Neutralize HIV-1 and Mediate Fc-Mediated Effector Killing of Infected Cells

Jonathan Richard, Dung N. Nguyen, William D. Tolbert, Romain Gasser, Shilei Ding, Dani Vézina, Shang Yu Gong, Jérémie Prévost, Gabrielle Gendron-Lepage, Halima Medjahed, Suneetha Gottumukkala, Andrés Finzi*, Marzena Pazgier*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


In HIV-1 infection, many antibodies (Abs) are elicited to Envelope (Env) epitopes that are conformationally masked in the native trimer and are only available for antibody recognition after the trimer binds host cell CD4. Among these are epitopes within the Co-Receptor Binding Site (CoRBS) and the constant region 1 and 2 (C1-C2 or cluster A region). In particular, C1-C2 epitopes map to the gp120 face interacting with gp41 in the native, “closed” Env trimer present on HIV-1 virions or expressed on HIV-1infected cells. Antibodies targeting this region are therefore nonneutralizing and their potential as mediators of antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) of HIV-1infected cells diminished by a lack of available binding targets. Here, we present the design of Ab-CD4 chimeric proteins that consist of the Ab-IgG1 of a CoRBS or cluster A specificity to the extracellular domains 1 and 2 of human CD4. Our Ab-CD4 hybrids induce potent ADCC against infected primary CD41 T cells and neutralize tier 1 and 2 HIV-1 viruses. Furthermore, competition binding experiments reveal that the observed biological activities rely on both the antibody and CD4 moieties, confirming their cooperativity in triggering conformational rearrangements of Env. Our data indicate the utility of these Ab-CD4 hybrids as antibody therapeutics that are effective in eliminating HIV-1 through the combined mechanisms of neutralization and ADCC. This is also the first report of single-chain-Ab-based molecules capable of opening “closed” Env trimers on HIV-1 particles/infected cells to expose the cluster A region and activate ADCC and neutralization against these nonneutralizing targets. IMPORTANCE Highly conserved epitopes within the coreceptor binding site (CoRBS) and constant region 1 and 2 (C1-C2 or cluster A) are only available for antibody recognition after the HIV-1 Env trimer binds host cell CD4; therefore, they are not accessible on virions and infected cells, where the expression of CD4 is downregulated. Here, we have developed new antibody fusion molecules in which domains 1 and 2 of soluble human CD4 are linked with monoclonal antibodies of either the CoRBS or cluster A specificity. We optimized the conjugation sites and linker lengths to allow each of these novel bispecific fusion molecules to recognize native “closed” Env trimers and induce the structural rearrangements required for exposure of the epitopes for antibody binding. Our in vitro functional testing shows that our Ab-CD4 molecules can efficiently target and eliminate HIV-1-infected cells through antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity and inactivate HIV-1 virus through neutralization.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01405-21
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • ADCC
  • Ab-CD4 hybrids
  • HIV-1
  • Neutralization
  • Nonneutralizing antibodies


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