Antibodies to a conformational epitope on gp41 neutralize HIV-1 by destabilizing the Env spike
HIV Envelope Protein gp120
HIV Envelope Protein gp41
The recent identification of three broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) against gp120-gp41 interface epitopes has expanded the targetable surface on the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env) trimer. By using biochemical, biophysical and computational methods, we map the previously unknown trimer epitopes of two related antibodies, 3BC315 and 3BC176. A cryo-EM reconstruction of a soluble Env trimer bound to 3BC315 Fab at 9.3 Å resolution reveals that the antibody binds between two gp41 protomers, and neutralizes the virus by accelerating trimer decay. In contrast, bnAb 35O22 binding to a partially overlapping quaternary epitope at the gp120-gp41 interface does not induce decay. A conserved gp41-proximal glycan at N88 was also shown to play a role in the binding kinetics of 3BC176 and 3BC315. Finally, our data suggest that the dynamic structure of the Env trimer influences exposure of bnAb epitopes.