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A central goal of HIV-1-vaccine research is the elicitation of antibodies capable of neutralizing diverse primary isolates of HIV-1. Here we show that focusing the immune response to exposed N-terminal residues of the fusion peptide, a critical component of the viral entry machinery and the epitope of antibodies elicited by HIV-1 infection, through immunization with fusion peptide-coupled carriers and prefusion-stabilized envelope trimers, induces cross-clade neutralizing responses. In mice, these immunogens elicited monoclonal antibodies capable of neutralizing up to 31% of a cross-clade panel of 208 HIV-1 strains. Crystal and cryo-electron microscopy structures of these antibodies revealed fusion peptide-conformational diversity as a molecular explanation for the cross-clade neutralization. Immunization of guinea pigs and rhesus macaques induced similarly broad fusion peptide-directed neutralizing responses suggesting translatability. The N terminus of the HIV-1-fusion peptide is thus a promising target of vaccine efforts aimed at eliciting broadly neutralizing antibodies.

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