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High-resolution mapping of the neutralizing and binding specificities of polyclonal rabbit serum elicited by HIV Env trimer immunization

By Adam S. Dingens, Payal Pratap, Keara Malone, Sarah K Hilton, Thomas Ketas, Christopher A Cottrell, Julie Overbaugh, John P Moore, P.J. Klasse, Andrew B. Ward, Jesse Bloom

Posted 21 Oct 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.21.348623

Mapping the epitope specificities of polyclonal serum is critical to rational vaccine design. However, most high-resolution mapping approaches involve isolating and characterizing individual monoclonal antibodies, which incompletely defines the full polyclonal response. Here we use two complementary approaches to directly map the specificities of the neutralizing and binding antibodies of polyclonal anti-HIV-1 sera from rabbits immunized with BG505 Env SOSIP trimers. To map the neutralizing specificity, we used mutational antigenic profiling to determine how all amino-acid mutations in Env affected viral neutralization. To map the binding specificity, we used electron microscopy polyclonal epitope mapping (EMPEM) to directly visualize the Fabs in serum bound to Env trimers. Mutational antigenic profiling showed that the dominant neutralizing specificities were the C3/V5 and/or 241/289 glycan hole epitopes, which were generally only a subset of the more diverse binding specificities mapped with EMPEM. Additional differences between binding and neutralization reflected antigenicity differences between virus and soluble Env trimer. Further, mutational antigenic profiling was able to refine epitope specificity in residue-level detail directly from sera, revealing subtle differences across rabbits. Together, mutational antigenic profiling and EMPEM allow for a holistic view of the binding and neutralizing specificity of polyclonal sera and could be used to finely evaluate and guide vaccine design. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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