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Open AccessArticle

HIV-1-Based Virus-like Particles that Morphologically Resemble Mature, Infectious HIV-1 Virions

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria 3000, Australia
Viral Entry and Vaccines Laboratory, Disease Elimination, Burnet Institute, Melbourne, Victoria 3004, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Viruses 2019, 11(6), 507;
Received: 25 March 2019 / Revised: 23 May 2019 / Accepted: 29 May 2019 / Published: 2 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Antivirals & Vaccines)
A prophylactic vaccine eliciting both broad neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) to the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env) and strong T cell responses would be optimal for preventing HIV-1 transmissions. Replication incompetent HIV-1 virus-like particles (VLPs) offer the opportunity to present authentic-structured, virion-associated Env to elicit bNAbs, and also stimulate T cell responses. Here, we optimize our DNA vaccine plasmids as VLP expression vectors for efficient Env incorporation and budding. The original vector that was used in human trials inefficiently produced VLPs, but maximized safety by inactivating RNA genome packaging, enzyme functions that are required for integration into the host genome, and deleting accessory proteins Vif, Vpr, and Nef. These original DNA vaccine vectors generated VLPs with incomplete protease-mediated cleavage of Gag and were irregularly sized. Mutations to restore function within the defective genes revealed that several of the reverse transcriptase (RT) deletions mediated this immature phenotype. Here, we made efficient budding, protease-processed, and mature-form VLPs that resembled infectious virions by introducing alternative mutations that completely removed the RT domain, but preserved most other safety mutations. These VLPs, either expressed from DNA vectors in vivo or purified after expression in vitro, are potentially useful immunogens that can be used to elicit antibody responses that target Env on fully infectious HIV-1 virions. View Full-Text
Keywords: HIV-1; virus-like particle; VLP; mature-form; particle assembly HIV-1; virus-like particle; VLP; mature-form; particle assembly
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Gonelli, C.A.; Khoury, G.; Center, R.J.; Purcell, D.F. HIV-1-Based Virus-like Particles that Morphologically Resemble Mature, Infectious HIV-1 Virions. Viruses 2019, 11, 507.

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