Differential regulation of the antibody responses to Gag and Env proteins of human immunodeficiency virus type 1
HIV Core Protein p24
HIV Envelope Protein gp120
HIV Envelope Protein gp41
We have studied the antibody responses to Env and Gag antigens of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) in several cohorts of HIV-1-infected individuals: long-term nonprogressors, progressors to disease, acute seroconvertors, and recipients of HIV-1 protease inhibitors. We conclude that the antibody responses to Env and Gag antigens are differentially regulated and that changes in the plasma viral load in the measurable range (500 to 10(8) RNA copies per ml) do not directly affect the antibody responses to these HIV-1 proteins. We provide quantitative estimates of HIV-1-specific immunoglobulin G concentrations in plasma, which can be in excess of 1 mg/ml for both anti-gp120 and anti-p24 once the immune response to HIV-1 has stabilized after seroconversion. We discuss the apparent paradox that the absence of anti-Gag antibodies (which have, at best, limited antiviral activity) is indicative of disease progression, while the retention of anti-Env antibodies (which do have antiviral activity) is of limited (or no) prognostic value. We show that the disappearance of anti-Gag antibodies during disease progression is highly unlikely to be due to immune complexing; instead, we believe that it reflects the loss of T-cell help that is more necessary for the anti-Gag than the anti-Env response.