Glycans in HIV-1 vaccine design - engaging the shield


  • L.P. Deimel
  • X. Xue
  • Q.J. Sattentau


  • Trends in Microbiology


  • Trends Microbiol 30 (9): 866-881


  • Glycans are repeating carbohydrate structures added as post-translational modifications (PTMs) to proteins, forming glycoproteins. Self-glycans found on human cells, and viral glycoproteins produced in host cells, are generally weakly immunogenic, which is necessary to avoid autoimmunity. This feature is exploited by many pathogenic viruses, which glycosylate surface proteins to evade or reduce immune recognition. The HIV type-1 (HIV-1) envelope glycoprotein (Env) is heavily glycosylated, which broadly acts to shield neutralisation-relevant protein surfaces with immunorecessive self-glycans to hinder B cell recognition. However, a small subset of HIV-1-infected individuals develops potent broadly neutralising antibodies (bnAbs), many of which directly engage the glycan shield. This provides hope that such antibodies could be elicited via vaccination and help to provide protective immunity. However, HIV-1 vaccine candidates have thus far failed to fully recapitulate such glycan-specific neutralising responses. In this review we consider the fundamental glycoimmunology and structural biology that underpin glycans in antibody evasion and as antibody targets and discuss potential approaches to harness glycan targeting for HIV-1 vaccine design.