Overcoming envelope metastability is crucial to trimer-based HIV-1 vaccine design. Here, we present a coherent vaccine strategy by minimizing metastability. For 10 strains across five clades, we demonstrate that the gp41 ectodomain (gp41ECTO) is the main source of envelope metastability by replacing wild-type gp41ECTO with BG505 gp41ECTO of the uncleaved prefusion-optimized (UFO) design. These gp41ECTO-swapped trimers can be produced in CHO cells with high yield and high purity. The crystal structure of a gp41ECTO-swapped trimer elucidates how a neutralization-resistant tier 3 virus evades antibody recognition of the V2 apex. UFO trimers of transmitted/founder viruses and UFO trimers containing a consensus-based ancestral gp41ECTO suggest an evolutionary root of metastability. The gp41ECTO-stabilized trimers can be readily displayed on 24- and 60-meric nanoparticles, with incorporation of additional T cell help illustrated for a hyperstable 60-mer, I3-01. In mice and rabbits, these gp140 nanoparticles induced tier 2 neutralizing antibody responses more effectively than soluble trimers.
The World Health Organization has included three bunyaviruses posing an increasing threat to human health on the Blueprint list of viruses likely to cause major epidemics and for which no, or insufficient countermeasures exist. Here, we describe a broadly applicable strategy, based on llama-derived single-domain antibodies (VHHs), for the development of bunyavirus biotherapeutics. The method was validated using the zoonotic Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) and Schmallenberg virus (SBV), an emerging pathogen of ruminants, as model pathogens. VHH building blocks were assembled into highly potent neutralizing complexes using bacterial superglue technology. The multimeric complexes were shown to reduce and prevent virus-induced morbidity and mortality in mice upon prophylactic administration. Bispecific molecules engineered to present two different VHHs fused to an Fc domain were further shown to be effective upon therapeutic administration. The presented VHH-based technology holds great promise for the development of bunyavirus antiviral therapies.
Antibody building blocks stuck together with bacterial superglue can protect against bunyaviruses, and herald a new approach to developing antibodies to fight emerging viruses.