Neutralization Sensitivity of a Novel HIV-1 CRF01_AE Panel of Infectious Molecular Clones

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Background:HIV-1 CRF01_AE is dominant in Thailand where RV144 vaccine trial was conducted. To study immune correlates of protection in ongoing trials, CRF01_AE-derived reagents are essential. Here, we present a panel of 14 HIV-1 infectious molecular clones (IMCs) identified from different stages of infection and characterization of their neutralization sensitivity using 2 standard assays.Methods:One full-length IMC was constructed using a transmitted-founder virus to express Renilla luciferase (LucR) reporter gene and full-length envelopes (envs) of exogenous HIV-1. A panel of IMCs was generated, expressing envs of viruses from acute (Fiebig stages I/II and I-IV) and chronic (>Fiebig VI) infection. Neutralization assays were performed using TZM-bl or A3R5 cell lines, and sera or monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). Wilcoxon matched-paired test was used to assess neutralization differences between assays and reagents; correlation coefficients were evaluated by linear regression.Results:Neutralization potency observed was significantly higher in the A3R5 assay when testing mAbs and serum pools (P < 0.0001); the stage of infection from which env was derived did not associate with IMC neutralization sensitivity. Neutralization values from A3R5 and TZM-bl assays were strongly correlated when mAbs were tested (R2 = 0.7, P < 0.0001), but a weaker association was seen with serum pools (R2 = 0.17, P = 0.03).Conclusions:This novel panel of CRF01_AE reporter IMC is useful for assessing vaccine-induced neutralizing antibodies in multiple assays, including those using primary cell targets. The significant differences in TZM-bl and A3R5 neutralization sensitivity, as well as the poor association when using polyclonal sera indicates the need for caution in choosing one specific platform.

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