Limitations to the Structure-Based Design of HIV-1 Vaccine Immunogens

  • Marc H V Van Regenmortel


In spite of 25 years of intensive research, no effective human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) vaccine has yet been developed. One reason for this is that investigators have concentrated mainly on the structural analysis of HIV-1 antigens because they assumed that it should be possible to deduce vaccine-relevant immunogens from the structure of viral antigens bound to neutralizing monoclonal antibodies. This unwarranted assumption arises from misconceptions regarding the nature of protein epitopes and from the belief that it is justified to extrapolate from the antigenicity to the immunogenicity of proteins.

Although the structure of the major HIV-1 antigenic sites has been elucidated, this knowledge has been of little use for designing an HIV-1 vaccine. Little attention has been given to the fact that protective immune responses tend to be polyclonal and involve antibodies directed to several different epitopes. It is concluded that only trial and error, empirical investigations using numerous immunization protocols may eventually allow us to identify which mixtures of immunogens are likely to be the best candidates for an HIV-1 vaccine.


Antigenicity Discontinuous epitopes Immunogenicity HIV-1 antigenic sites HIV-1 vaccine Monoclonal antibodies Structure-based vaccine design 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marc H V Van Regenmortel
    • 1
  1. 1.School of BiotechnologyUniversity of StrasbourgIllkirchFrance

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