The human monoclonal antibody, mAb 2F5, has broad HIV-1 neutralizing activity and binds a conserved linear epitope within the envelope glycoprotein gp41 having a core recognition sequence ELDKWA. In this study, the structural requirements of this epitope for high-affinity binding to mAb 2F5 were explored using peptide synthesis and competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbant assay (ELISA). Expansion of the minimal epitope to an end-capped, linear nonapeptide, Ac-LELDKWASL-amide, was sufficient to attain maximal affinity within the set of native gp41-sequence peptides assayed. Scanning single-residue alanine and D-residue substitutions then confirmed the essential recognition requirements of 2F5 for the central DKW sequence, and also established the importance of the terminal leucine residues in determining high-affinity binding of the linear nonapeptide. Further studies of side-chain and backbone-modified analogs revealed a high degree of structural specificity for the DK sequence in particular, and delineated the steric requirements of the Leu3 and Trp6 residues. The nine-residue 2F5 epitope, flanked by pairs of serine residues, retained a high affinity for 2F5 when it was conformationally constrained as a 15-residue, disulfide-bridged loop. However, analogs with smaller or larger loop sizes resulted in lower 2F5 affinities. The conformational effects of the gp41 C-peptide helix immediately adjacent to the N-terminal end of the ELDKWA epitope were examined through the synthesis of helix-initiated analogs. Circular dichroism (CD) studies indicated that the α-helical conformation was propagated efficiently into the LELDKWASL epitope, but without any significant effect on its affinity for 2F5. This study should guide the design of a second generation of conformationally constrained ELDKWA analogs that might elicit an immune response that mimics the HIV-neutralizing actions of 2F5.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Alanine scanning
- Conformationally constrained peptides
- MAb 2F5
- Peptide vaccine