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The observation that humans can produce broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) against HIV-1 has generated enthusiasm about the potential for a bnAb vaccine against HIV-1. Conventional immunization strategies will likely be insufficient for the development of a bnAb HIV vaccine and vaccines to other difficult pathogens, due to the significant immunological hurdles posed, including B cell immunodominance and germinal center (GC) quantity and quality. Using longitudinal lymph node fine needle aspirates, we found that two independent methods of slow delivery immunization of rhesus macaques (RM) resulted in larger GCs, more robust and sustained GC Tfh cell responses, and GC B cells with improved Env-binding, which correlated with the development of ~20 to 30-fold higher titers of tier 2 HIV-1 nAbs. Using a new RM genomic immunoglobulin loci reference sequence, we identified differential IgV gene usage between slow delivery immunized and conventional bolus immunized animals. The most immunodominant IgV gene used by conventionally immunized animals was associated with many GC B cell lineages. Ab mapping of those GC B cell specificities demonstrated targeting of an immunodominant non-neutralizing trimer base epitope, while that response was muted in slow delivery immunized animals. Thus, alternative immunization strategies appear to enhance nAb development by altering GCs and modulating immunodominance of non-neutralizing epitopes.

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