HIV-1 infection is complicated by high rates of opportunistic infections against which specific antibodies contribute to immune defense. Antibody function depends on somatic hypermutation (SHM) of variable regions of immunoglobulin heavy chain genes (V H-D-J). We characterized the frequency of SHM in expressed IgG mRNA immunoglobulin transcripts from control and HIV-1-infected patients.
We compared utilization of genes in the most prominent V H family (V H3) and mutation frequencies and patterns of cDNA from V H3-IgG genes from 10 seronegative control subjects and 21 patients with HIV-1 infection (6 without and 15 patients with detectable plasma viremia).
Unique IgG V H3 family cDNA sequences (n = 1,565) were PCR amplified, cloned, and sequenced from blood. Sequences were analyzed using online (Vbase) and in-house immunoglobulin alignment resources.
Mutation frequencies in the antigen-binding hypervariable complementarity determining regions (CDR1/2) of IgG class-switched B cells were lower among viremic HIV-1-infected patients vs. controls for nucleotides (CDR1/2: 10±5% vs. 13.5±6%, p = 0.03) and amino acids (CDR: 20%±10 vs. 25%±12, p = 0.02) and in structural framework regions. Mutation patterns were similar among groups. The most common V H3 gene, V H3-23, was utilized less frequently among viremic HIV-1-infected patients (p = 0.03), and overall, mutation frequencies were decreased in nearly all V H3 genes compared with controls.
B cells from HIV-1-infected patients show decreased mutation frequencies, especially in antigen-binding V H3 CDR genes, and selective defects in gene utilization. Similar mutation patterns suggest defects in the quantity, but not quality, of mutator activity. Lower levels of SHM in IgG class-switched B cells from HIV-1-infected patients may contribute to the increased risk of opportunistic infections and impaired humoral responses to preventative vaccines.