Nanobodies or VHH (variable domains of heavy-chain only antibodies) are derived from camelid species such as llamas and camels. Nanobodies isolated and selected through phage display can neutralize a broad range of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) strains. Nanobodies fit into canyons on the HIV envelope that may not be accessible to IgG (immunoglobulin G) containing both heavy and light chains, and they tend to have long CDR3 (complementarity-determining region 3) loops that further enhance recognition of otherwise cryptic epitopes. Nanobodies are readily expressed at high levels in bacteria and yeast, as well as by viral vectors, and they form relatively stable, heat-resistant molecules. Nanobodies can be linked to human Fc chains to gain immune effector functions. Bivalent and trivalent nanobodies recognizing the same or distinct epitopes on the envelope glycoproteins, gp120 and gp41, greatly increase the potency of HIV-1 neutralization. Nanobodies have potential applications for HIV-1 diagnostics, vaccine design, microbicides, immunoprophylaxis, and immunotherapy.
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