Understanding how broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) to HIV envelope (Env) develop during natural infection can help guide the rational design of an HIV vaccine. Here, we described a bnAb lineage targeting the Env V2 apex and the Ab-Env co-evolution that led to development of neutralization breadth. The lineage Abs bore an anionic heavy chain complementarity-determining region 3 (CDRH3) of 25 amino acids, among the shortest known for this class of Abs, and achieved breadth with only 10% nucleotide somatic hypermutation and no insertions or deletions. The data suggested a role for Env glycoform heterogeneity in the activation of the lineage germline B cell. Finally, we showed that localized diversity at key V2 epitope residues drove bnAb maturation toward breadth, mirroring the Env evolution pattern described for another donor who developed V2-apex targeting bnAbs. Overall, these findings suggest potential strategies for vaccine approaches based on germline-targeting and serial immunogen design.HIGHLIGHTS
Understanding the molecular basis of HIV Env-specific broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) development is key for vaccine design. Landais et al. find that glycan heterogeneity played a role in the activation of V2 apex PCT64 bnAbs precursor and that viral evolution was similar to CAP256, another donor with V2 apex bnAbs.