How to assess the binding strength of antibodies elicited by vaccination against HIV and other viruses
Vaccines that protect against viral infections generally induce neutralizing antibodies. When vaccines are evaluated, the need arises to assess the affinity maturation of the antibody responses. Binding titers of polyclonal sera depend not only on the affinities of the constituent antibodies but also on their individual concentrations, which are difficult to ascertain. Therefore an assay based on chaotrope disruption of antibody-antigen complexes was designed for measuring binding strength. This assay works well with many viral antigens but gives differential results depending on the conformational dependence of epitopes on complex antigens such as the envelope glycoprotein of HIV-1. Kinetic binding assays might offer alternatives, since they can measure average off-rate constants for polyclonal antibodies in a serum. Here, potentials and fallacies of these techniques are discussed.