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Concept: Antibody


Females have generally more robust immune responses than males for reasons that are not well-understood. Here we used a systems analysis to investigate these differences by analyzing the neutralizing antibody response to a trivalent inactivated seasonal influenza vaccine (TIV) and a large number of immune system components, including serum cytokines and chemokines, blood cell subset frequencies, genome-wide gene expression, and cellular responses to diverse in vitro stimuli, in 53 females and 34 males of different ages. We found elevated antibody responses to TIV and expression of inflammatory cytokines in the serum of females compared with males regardless of age. This inflammatory profile correlated with the levels of phosphorylated STAT3 proteins in monocytes but not with the serological response to the vaccine. In contrast, using a machine learning approach, we identified a cluster of genes involved in lipid biosynthesis and previously shown to be up-regulated by testosterone that correlated with poor virus-neutralizing activity in men. Moreover, men with elevated serum testosterone levels and associated gene signatures exhibited the lowest antibody responses to TIV. These results demonstrate a strong association between androgens and genes involved in lipid metabolism, suggesting that these could be important drivers of the differences in immune responses between males and females.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Protein, Bacteria, Organism, Vaccine, Vaccination, Immunology


Induction of broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) is a primary goal of HIV vaccine development. VRC01-class bnAbs are important vaccine leads because their precursor B cells targeted by an engineered priming immunogen are relatively common among humans. This priming immunogen has demonstrated the ability to initiate a bnAb response in animal models, but recall and maturation toward bnAb development has not been shown. Here, we report the development of boosting immunogens designed to guide the genetic and functional maturation of previously primed VRC01-class precursors. Boosting a transgenic mouse model expressing germline VRC01 heavy chains produced broad neutralization of near-native isolates (N276A) and weak neutralization of fully native HIV. Functional and genetic characteristics indicate that the boosted mAbs are consistent with partially mature VRC01-class antibodies and place them on a maturation trajectory that leads toward mature VRC01-class bnAbs. The results show how reductionist sequential immunization can guide maturation of HIV bnAb responses.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Genetics, Gene expression, Bacteria, Developmental biology, Vaccine, Antigen


Zika virus is a flavivirus transmitted primarily by Aedes species mosquitoes, and symptoms of infection can include rash, fever, arthralgia, and conjunctivitis (1).* Zika virus infection during pregnancy is a cause of microcephaly and other severe brain defects (2). Infection has also been associated with Guillain-Barré syndrome (3). In December 2015, Puerto Rico became the first U.S. jurisdiction to report local transmission of Zika virus, with the index patient reporting symptom onset on November 23, 2015 (4). This report provides an update to the epidemiology of and public health response to ongoing Zika virus transmission in Puerto Rico. During November 1, 2015-April 14, 2016, a total of 6,157 specimens from suspected Zika virus-infected patients were evaluated by the Puerto Rico Department of Health (PRDH) and CDC Dengue Branch (which is located in San Juan, Puerto Rico), and 683 (11%) had laboratory evidence of current or recent Zika virus infection by one or more tests: reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) or immunoglobulin M (IgM) enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Zika virus-infected patients resided in 50 (64%) of 78 municipalities in Puerto Rico. Median age was 34 years (range = 35 days-89 years). The most frequently reported signs and symptoms were rash (74%), myalgia (68%), headache (63%), fever (63%), and arthralgia (63%). There were 65 (10%) symptomatic pregnant women who tested positive by RT-PCR or IgM ELISA. A total of 17 (2%) patients required hospitalization, including 5 (1%) patients with suspected Guillain-Barré syndrome. One (<1%) patient died after developing severe thrombocytopenia. The public health response to the outbreak has included increased laboratory capacity to test for Zika virus infection (including blood donor screening), implementation of enhanced surveillance systems, and prevention activities focused on pregnant women. Vector control activities include indoor and outdoor residual spraying and reduction of mosquito breeding environments focused around pregnant women's homes. Residents of and travelers to Puerto Rico should continue to employ mosquito bite avoidance behaviors, take precautions to reduce the risk for sexual transmission (5), and seek medical care for any acute illness with rash or fever.

Concepts: Antibody, Epidemiology, Mosquito, ELISA, ELISPOT, Aedes, Dengue fever, Eva Engvall


Mucosal surfaces are a main entry point for pathogens and the principal sites of defense against infection. Both bacteria and phage are associated with this mucus. Here we show that phage-to-bacteria ratios were increased, relative to the adjacent environment, on all mucosal surfaces sampled, ranging from cnidarians to humans. In vitro studies of tissue culture cells with and without surface mucus demonstrated that this increase in phage abundance is mucus dependent and protects the underlying epithelium from bacterial infection. Enrichment of phage in mucus occurs via binding interactions between mucin glycoproteins and Ig-like protein domains exposed on phage capsids. In particular, phage Ig-like domains bind variable glycan residues that coat the mucin glycoprotein component of mucus. Metagenomic analysis found these Ig-like proteins present in the phages sampled from many environments, particularly from locations adjacent to mucosal surfaces. Based on these observations, we present the bacteriophage adherence to mucus model that provides a ubiquitous, but non-host-derived, immunity applicable to mucosal surfaces. The model suggests that metazoan mucosal surfaces and phage coevolve to maintain phage adherence. This benefits the metazoan host by limiting mucosal bacteria, and benefits the phage through more frequent interactions with bacterial hosts. The relationships shown here suggest a symbiotic relationship between phage and metazoan hosts that provides a previously unrecognized antimicrobial defense that actively protects mucosal surfaces.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, DNA, Bacteria, Evolution, Microbiology, Virus, Bacteriophage


Recent epidemics of Zika virus (ZIKV) have been associated with congenital malformation during pregnancy and Guillain-Barré syndrome. There are two ZIKV lineages (African and Asian) that share >95% amino acid identity. Little is known regarding the ability of neutralizing antibodies elicited against one lineage to protect against the other. We investigated the breadth of the neutralizing antibody response following ZIKV infection by measuring the sensitivity of six ZIKV strains to neutralization by ZIKV-confirmed convalescent human serum or plasma samples. Contemporary Asian and early African ZIKV strains were similarly sensitive to neutralization regardless of the cellular source of virus. Furthermore, mouse immune serum generated after infection with African or Asian ZIKV strains was capable of neutralizing homologous and heterologous ZIKV strains equivalently. Because our study only defines a single ZIKV serotype, vaccine candidates eliciting robust neutralizing antibody responses should inhibit infection of both ZIKV lineages, including strains circulating in the Americas.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Protein, Neutralizing antibody, Bacteria, Acid, Antibodies, Congenital disorder


A routine investigation by the New York City (NYC) Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) identified a nonpregnant woman in her twenties who reported she had engaged in a single event of condomless vaginal intercourse with a male partner the day she returned to NYC (day 0) from travel to an area with ongoing Zika virus transmission. She had headache and abdominal cramping while in the airport awaiting return to NYC. The following day (day 1) she developed fever, fatigue, a maculopapular rash, myalgia, arthralgia, back pain, swelling of the extremities, and numbness and tingling in her hands and feet. In addition, on day 1, the woman began menses that she described as heavier than usual. On day 3 she visited her primary care provider who obtained blood and urine specimens. Zika virus RNA was detected in both serum and urine by real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) performed at the DOHMH Public Health Laboratory using a test based on an assay developed at CDC (1). The results of serum testing for anti-Zika virus immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibody performed by the New York State Department of Health Wadsworth Center laboratory was negative using the CDC Zika IgM antibody capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (Zika MAC-ELISA) (2).

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Immunology, Influenza, ELISA, ELISPOT, New York City, New York


APS1/APECED patients are defined by defects in the autoimmune regulator (AIRE) that mediates central T cell tolerance to many self-antigens. AIRE deficiency also affects B cell tolerance, but this is incompletely understood. Here we show that most APS1/APECED patients displayed B cell autoreactivity toward unique sets of approximately 100 self-proteins. Thereby, autoantibodies from 81 patients collectively detected many thousands of human proteins. The loss of B cell tolerance seemingly occurred during antibody affinity maturation, an obligatorily T cell-dependent step. Consistent with this, many APS1/APECED patients harbored extremely high-affinity, neutralizing autoantibodies, particularly against specific cytokines. Such antibodies were biologically active in vitro and in vivo, and those neutralizing type I interferons (IFNs) showed a striking inverse correlation with type I diabetes, not shown by other anti-cytokine antibodies. Thus, naturally occurring human autoantibodies may actively limit disease and be of therapeutic utility.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Protein, Cytokine, Diabetes mellitus type 1, Immunology, Interferon, Somatic hypermutation


Since it emerged in Brazil in May 2015, the mosquito-borne Zika virus (ZIKV) has raised global concern due to its association with a significant rise in the number of infants born with microcephaly and neurological disorders such as Guillain-Barré syndrome. We developed prototype subunit and adenoviral-based Zika vaccines encoding the extracellular portion of the ZIKV envelope gene (E) fused to the T4 fibritin foldon trimerization domain (Efl). The subunit vaccine was delivered intradermally through carboxymethyl cellulose microneedle array (MNA). The immunogenicity of these two vaccines, named Ad5.ZIKV-Efl and ZIKV-rEfl, was tested in C57BL/6 mice. Prime/boost immunization regimen was associated with induction of a ZIKV-specific antibody response, which provided neutralizing immunity. Moreover, protection was evaluated in seven-day-old pups after virulent ZIKV intraperitoneal challenge. Pups born to mice immunized with Ad5.ZIKV-Efl were all protected against lethal challenge infection without weight loss or neurological signs, while pups born to dams immunized with MNA-ZIKV-rEfl were partially protected (50%). No protection was seen in pups born to phosphate buffered saline-immunized mice. This study illustrates the preliminary efficacy of the E ZIKV antigen vaccination in controlling ZIKV infectivity, providing a promising candidate vaccine and antigen format for the prevention of Zika virus disease.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Protein, Vaccine, Vaccination, Immunology, Virology, Smallpox


Seasonal variations are rarely considered a contributing component to human tissue function or health, although many diseases and physiological process display annual periodicities. Here we find more than 4,000 protein-coding mRNAs in white blood cells and adipose tissue to have seasonal expression profiles, with inverted patterns observed between Europe and Oceania. We also find the cellular composition of blood to vary by season, and these changes, which differ between the United Kingdom and The Gambia, could explain the gene expression periodicity. With regards to tissue function, the immune system has a profound pro-inflammatory transcriptomic profile during European winter, with increased levels of soluble IL-6 receptor and C-reactive protein, risk biomarkers for cardiovascular, psychiatric and autoimmune diseases that have peak incidences in winter. Circannual rhythms thus require further exploration as contributors to various aspects of human physiology and disease.

Concepts: Immune system, White blood cell, Antibody, Gene, Bacteria, Blood, Organism, Immunology


Broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) against the N332 supersite of the HIV envelope (Env) trimer are the most common bnAbs induced during infection, making them promising leads for vaccine design. Wild-type Env glycoproteins lack detectable affinity for supersite-bnAb germline precursors and are therefore unsuitable immunogens to prime supersite-bnAb responses. We employed mammalian cell surface display to design stabilized Env trimers with affinity for germline-reverted precursors of PGT121-class supersite bnAbs. The trimers maintained native-like antigenicity and structure, activated PGT121 inferred-germline B cells ex vivo when multimerized on liposomes, and primed PGT121-like responses in PGT121 inferred-germline knockin mice. Design intermediates have levels of epitope modification between wild-type and germline-targeting trimers; their mutation gradient suggests sequential immunization to induce bnAbs, in which the germline-targeting prime is followed by progressively less-mutated design intermediates and, lastly, with native trimers. The vaccine design strategies described could be utilized to target other epitopes on HIV or other pathogens.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Gene, Bacteria, Vaccination, B cell, Antigen, Epitope