Direct Probing of Germinal Center Responses Reveals Immunological Features and Bottlenecks for Neutralizing Antibody Responses to HIV Env Trimer
HIV Envelope Protein gp120
Generating tier 2 HIV-neutralizing antibody (nAb) responses by immunization remains a challenging problem, and the immunological barriers to induction of such responses with Env immunogens remain unclear. Here, some rhesus monkeys developed autologous tier 2 nAbs upon HIV Env trimer immunization (SOSIP.v5.2) whereas others did not. This was not because HIV Env trimers were immunologically silent because all monkeys made similar ELISA-binding antibody responses; the key difference was nAb versus non-nAb responses. We explored the immunological barriers to HIV nAb responses by combining a suite of techniques, including longitudinal lymph node fine needle aspirates. Unexpectedly, nAb development best correlated with booster immunization GC B cell magnitude and Tfh characteristics of the Env-specific CD4 T cells. Notably, these factors distinguished between successful and unsuccessful antibody responses because GC B cell frequencies and stoichiometry to GC Tfh cells correlated with nAb development, but did not correlate with total Env Ab binding titers.