Nonneutralizing functional antibodies: A new "old" paradigm for HIV vaccines

Jean Louis Excler*, Julie Ake, Merlin L. Robb, Jerome H. Kim, Stanley A. Plotkin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

96 Scopus citations


Animal and human data from various viral infections and vaccine studies suggest that nonneutralizing antibodies (nNAb) without neutralizing activity in vitro may play an important role in protection against viral infection in vivo. This was illustrated by the recent human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) RV144 vaccine efficacy trial, which demonstrated that HIV-specific IgG-mediated nNAb directed against the V2 loop of HIV type 1 envelope (Env) were inversely correlated with risk for HIV acquisition, while Env-specific plasma IgA-mediated antibodies were directly correlated with risk. However, tier 1 NAb in the subset of responders with a low level of plasma Env-specific IgA correlated with decreased risk. Nonhuman primate simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) and simian-human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV) challenge studies suggest that Env-mediated antibodies are essential and sufficient for protection. A comparison of immune responses generated in human efficacy trials reveals subtle differences in the fine specificities of the antibody responses, in particular in HIV-specific IgG subclasses. The underlying mechanisms that may have contributed to protection against HIV acquisition in humans, although not fully understood, are possibly mediated by antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) and/or other nonneutralizing humoral effector functions, such as antibody-mediated phagocytosis. The presence of such functional nNAb in mucosal tissues and cervico-vaginal and rectal secretions challenges the paradigm that NAb are the predominant immune response conferring protection, although this does not negate the desirability of evoking neutralizing antibodies through vaccination. Instead, NAb and nNAb should be looked upon as complementary or synergistic humoral effector functions. Several HIV vaccine clinical trials to study these antibody responses in various prime-boost modalities in the systemic and mucosal compartments are ongoing. The induction of high-frequency HIV-specific functional nNAb at high titers may represent an attractive hypothesis-testing strategy in future HIV vaccine efficacy trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1023-1036
Number of pages14
JournalClinical and Vaccine Immunology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes


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