In order to induce a potent and cross-reactive neutralizing antibody (nAb), an effective envelope immunogen is crucial for many viral vaccines, including the vaccine for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The Chinese equine infectious anemia virus (EIAV) attenuated vaccine has controlled the epidemic of this virus after its vaccination in over 70 million equine animals during the last 3 decades in China. Data from our past studies demonstrate that the Env protein of this vaccine plays a pivotal role in protecting horses from both homologous and heterogeneous EIAV challenges. Therefore, the amino acid sequence information from the Chinese EIAV attenuated vaccine, in comparison with the parental wild-type EIAV strains, was applied to modify the corresponding region of the envelope glycoprotein of HIV-1 CN54. The direction of the mutations was made towards the amino acids conserved in the two EIAV vaccine strains, distinguishing them from the two wild-type strains. The purpose of the modification was to enhance the immunogenicity of the HIV Env.
The induced nAb by the modified HIV Env neutralized HIV-1 B and B'/C viruses at the highest titer of 1:270. Further studies showed that a single amino acid change in the C1 region accounts for the substantial enhancement in induction of anti-HIV-1 neutralizing antibodies.