This article is part of the supplement: AIDS Vaccine 2012

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Antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity-mediating antibodies from an HIV-1 vaccine efficacy trial preferentially use the VH1 gene family

M Bonsignori1*, J Pollara1, MA Moody1, TB Kepler2, X Chen1, TC Gurley1, DM Kozink1, DJ Marshall1, JF Whitesides1, J Kaewkungwal3, S Nitayaphan4, P Pitisuttithum5, S Rerks-Ngarm6, JH Kim7, NL Michael7, DC Montefiori1, H Liao1, G Ferrari1 and BF Haynes1

  • * Corresponding author: M Bonsignori

Author Affiliations

1 Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA

2 Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA

3 Tropical Hygiene, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand

4 Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, Bangkok, Thailand

5 Clinical Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand

6 Department of Disease Control, Ministry of Public Health, Nonthaburi, Thailand

7 US Military HIV Research Program, Rockville, MD, USA

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Retrovirology 2012, 9(Suppl 2):P78  doi:10.1186/1742-4690-9-S2-P78

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published:13 September 2012

© 2012 Bonsignori et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The ALVAC-HIV/AIDSVAX-B/E RV144 vaccine efficacy trial showed an estimated efficacy of 31%. The immune correlates analysis raised the hypothesis that the observed protection in RV144 may be partially due to Antibody-Dependent Cellular Cytotoxicity (ADCC)-mediating antibodies in the presence of low levels of Env IgA antibodies. In this study we analyzed the Ig VH family usage of vaccine-induced ADCC mAbs isolated from memory B cells of vaccinees.


From a total of 321,945 memory B-cells of 6 vaccinees we obtained 23 mAbs that mediated ADCC using IgG+ memory B-cell cultures (n=9) and Env-specific flow cytometric single memory B-cell sorting (n=14). ADCC activity was measured using both E.CM243 gp120-coated and E.CM235-infected target cells in a flow-based assay.


ADCC-mediating mAbs displayed a disproportionate usage of VH1 family genes (17/23; 74%), in particular the VH1-2 gene segment (10/17; 59%), as recently observed for CD4bs broadly neutralizing antibodies (HAAD bNAbs). In contrast, only 17.1% of 111 heavy chains isolated from cultures that did not mediate ADCC used the VH1 gene. VH1 ADCC-mediating mAbs showed a high degree of V(D)J amino acid similarity to both the VH (68-84%) and VL (70-87%) HAAD motifs. V(D)J rearrangements displayed modest levels of affinity maturation (0.5-5.1% for heavy chains and 0.4-4.3% for light chains). While none of the VH1 ADCC-mediating mAbs was capable of mediating HIV-1 neutralization, the strength of their ADCC activity correlated with the levels of heavy chain somatic mutations (p=0.02). We produced the reverted unmutated ancestor antibodies of two VH1 ADCC-mediating mAbs: one bound to B.MN Env and both reacted against autoantigens.


ADCC-mediating antibodies induced by the ALVAC-HIV/AIDSVAX-B/E vaccine underwent limited affinity maturation, and preferentially used VH1 gene segments which share the HAAD motif with CD4bs bNAbs. These observations raise the hypothesis that HIV-1 Env preferentially selects VH1 family usage for distinct subsets of antibodies with different functions.