Inhibition of HIV-1 Env-Mediated Cell-Cell Fusion by Lectins, Peptide T-20, and Neutralizing Antibodies

Michael Yee1, Krystyna Konopka1, Jan Balzarini2, Nejat Düzgüneş*, 1
1 Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, San Francisco, CA 94115, USA
2 Rega Institute for Medical Research, Catholic University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

© Yee et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

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* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, San Francisco, CA 94115, USA; Tel: 1-415-929-6565; Fax; 1-415-929-6564; E-mail:



Broadly cross-reactive, neutralizing human monoclonal antibodies, including 2F5, 2G12, 4E10 and IgG1 b12, can inhibit HIV-1 infection in vitro at very low concentrations. We examined the ability of these antibodies to inhibit cell-cell fusion between Clone69TRevEnv cells induced to express the viral envelope proteins, gp120/gp41 (Env), and highly CD4-positive SupT1 cells. The cells were loaded with green and red-orange cytoplasmic fluorophores, and fusion was monitored by fluorescence microscopy.


Cell-cell fusion was inhibited completely by the carbohydrate binding proteins (CBPs), Hippeastrum hybrid (Amaryllis) agglutinin (HHA), and Galanthus nivalis (Snowdrop) agglutinin (GNA), and by the peptide, T-20, at relatively low concentrations. Anti-gp120 and anti-gp41 antibodies, at concentrations much higher than those required for neutralization, were not particularly effective in inhibiting fusion. Monoclonal antibodies b12, m14 IgG and 2G12 had moderate inhibitory activity; the IC50 of 2G12 was about 80 µg/ml. Antibodies 4E10 and 2F5 had no inhibitory activity at the concentrations tested.


These observations raise concerns about the ability of neutralizing antibodies to inhibit the spread of viral genetic material from infected cells to uninfected cells via cell-cell fusion. The interaction of gp120/gp41 with cell membrane CD4 may be different in cell-cell and virus-cell membrane fusion reactions, and may explain the differential effects of antibodies in these two systems. The fluorescence assay described here may be useful in high throughput screening of potential HIV fusion inhibitors.

Keywords: Fluorescence microscopy, HIV infection, membrane fusion, fusion inhibitor, HIV vaccine, carbohydrate binding protein..