Glycan clustering stabilizes the mannose patch of HIV-1 and preserves vulnerability to broadly neutralizing antibodies
The envelope spike of HIV-1 employs a `glycan shield' to protect itself from antibody-mediated neutralization. Paradoxically, however, potent broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) that target this shield have been isolated. The unusually high glycan density on the gp120 subunit limits processing during biosynthesis, leaving a region of under-processed oligomannose-type structures, which is a primary target of these bnAbs. Here we investigate the contribution of individual glycosylation sites in the formation of this so-called intrinsic mannose patch. Deletion of individual sites has a limited effect on the overall size of the intrinsic mannose patch but leads to changes in the processing of neighbouring glycans. These structural changes are largely tolerated by a panel of glycan-dependent bnAbs targeting these regions, indicating a degree of plasticity in their recognition. These results support the intrinsic mannose patch as a stable target for vaccine design.