Effects of adjuvants on HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein SOSIP trimers in vitro Academic Article uri icon


MeSH Major

  • HIV-1
  • env Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus


  • © 2018 American Society for Microbiology. Native-like, soluble, recombinant SOSIP trimers of various designs and based on several env genes of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) are being tested as immunogens in different animal models. These experiments almost always involve coformulating the trimers with an adjuvant to boost the magnitude of the immune responses. One factor relevant to the choice of an adjuvant is that it should not physically damage the immunogen or impede its ability to present relevant epitopes. As examples, an adjuvant formulation that includes harsh detergents could disrupt the structural integrity of a trimer, and any charged compounds in the formulation could bind to countercharged regions of the trimer and physically occlude nearby epitopes. While a few adjuvants have been tested for their potential effects on SOSIP trimers in vitro, there has been no systematic study. Here, we have assessed how nine different adjuvants of various compositions affect SOSIP trimers of the BG505 and B41 genotypes. We used negative-stain electron microscopy, thermal denaturation, and gel electrophoresis to evaluate effects on trimer integrity and immunoassays to measure effects on the presentation of various epitopes. We conclude that most of the tested adjuvants are benign from these perspectives, but some raise grounds for concern. An acidified alum formulation is highly disruptive to trimer integrity, and a DNA-based polyanionic CpG oligodeoxynucleotide adjuvant binds to trimers and occludes the trimer apex epitope for the PGT145 neutralizing antibody. The methods described here should be generalizable to protein subunit vaccines targeting various pathogens.

publication date

  • July 2018



  • Academic Article



  • eng

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1128/JVI.00381-18

PubMed ID

  • 29669838

Additional Document Info


  • 92


  • 13