Background: Differently from HIV-1, HIV-2 disease progression usually takes decades without antiretroviral therapy and the majority of HIV-2 infected individuals survive as elite controllers with normal CD4+ T cell counts and low or undetectable plasma viral load. Neutralizing antibodies (Nabs) are thought to play a central role in HIV-2 evolution and pathogenesis. However, the dynamic of the Nab response and resulting HIV-2 escape during acute infection and their impact in HIV-2 evolution and disease progression remain largely unknown. Our objective was to characterize the Nab response and the molecular and phenotypic evolution of HIV-2 in association with Nab escape in the first years of infection in two children infected at birth.Results: CD4+ T cells decreased from about 50% to below 30% in both children in the first five years of infection and the infecting R5 viruses were replaced by X4 viruses within the same period. With antiretroviral therapy, viral load in child 1 decreased to undetectable levels and CD4+ T cells recovered to normal levels, which have been sustained at least until the age of 12. In contrast, viral load increased in child 2 and she progressed to AIDS and death at age 9. Beginning in the first year of life, child 1 raised high titers of antibodies that neutralized primary R5 isolates more effectively than X4 isolates, both autologous and heterologous. Child 2 raised a weak X4-specific Nab response that decreased sharply as disease progressed. Rate of evolution, nucleotide and amino acid diversity, and positive selection, were significantly higher in the envelope of child 1 compared to child 2. Rates of R5-to-X4 tropism switch, of V1 and V3 sequence diversification, and of convergence of V3 to a β-hairpin structure were related with rate of escape from the neutralizing antibodies.Conclusion: Our data suggests that the molecular and phenotypic evolution of the human immunodeficiency virus type 2 envelope are related with the dynamics of the neutralizing antibody response providing further support for a model in which Nabs play an important role in HIV-2 pathogenesis.
- Escape from neutralization
- Evolution of the neutralizing antibody response
- Molecular evolution
- Vertical HIV-2 infection