- 10 patients
- Sequenced the C2/V3 region of the HIV env gene
- Sequenced the variable region of the heavy chain antibody (Ab) locus of B cells
Rationale and Motivation
It is well known that B-cells (a type of immune cell) will mutate their antibodies and undergo selection events in order to better bind their pathogenic targets. This process is essentially identical to Darwinian selection. Which means that every time you get sick, your adaptive immune system is literally evolving in order to better fight the infection, and provide you with immunity in the future! With respect to HIV infections, it has been shown that antibodies that are particularly good at binding and neutralizing HIV, have undergone extensive evolution. Further, it is well documented that HIV is also continuously evolving in order to evade the surveillance of antibodies. This suggests that antibodies and HIV are undergoing a coevolutionary process! Whereby, an antibody will evolve to better bind its HIV target, then HIV will evolve to avoid that antibody, then the antibody will evolve a counter-adaptation, and the process will continuously repeat. It is likely that this coevolutionary process is important for the development of antibodies that are particularly effective at neutralizing HIV. However, very little is known about it, and it has rarely been directly observed. Thus, we sought to illuminate the evolutionary interaction between HIV and antibodies over time by sequencing both the population of antibodies, and the population of HIV in human individuals over the course of their infection.