The activity of broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) targeting HIV-1 depends on pleiotropic functions including viral neutralization and the elimination of HIV-1-infected cells. Several in vivo studies have suggested that passive administration of bNAbs represents a valuable strategy for the prevention or treatment of HIV-1. Additionally, different strategies are currently being tested to scale-up the production of bNAbs to obtain the large quantities of antibodies required for clinical trials. Production of antibodies in plants permits low-cost and large-scale production of valuable therapeutics; furthermore, pertinent to this work, it also includes an advanced glycoengineering platform. In this study, we used Nicotiana benthamiana to produce different Fc-glycovariants of a potent bNAb, PGT121, with near-homogeneous profiles and evaluated their antiviral activities. Structural analyses identified a close similarity in overall structure and glycosylation patterns of Fc regions for these plant-derived Abs and mammalian cell-derived Abs. When tested for Fc-effector activities, afucosylated PGT121 showed significantly enhanced FcgammaRIIIa interaction and antibody dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) against primary HIV-1-infected cells, both in vitro and ex vivo. However, the overall galactosylation profiles of plant PGT121 did not affect ADCC activities against infected primary CD4+ T cells. Our results suggest that the abrogation of the Fc N-linked glycan fucosylation of PGT121 is a worthwhile strategy to boost its Fc-effector functionality. IMPORTANCE PGT121 is a highly potent bNAb and its antiviral activities for HIV-1 prevention and therapy are currently being evaluated in clinical trials. The importance of its Fc-effector functions in clearing HIV-1-infected cells is also under investigation. Our results highlight enhanced Fc-effector activities of afucosylated PGT121 mAbs that could be important in a therapeutic context to accelerate infected cell clearance and slow disease progression. Future studies to evaluate the potential of plant-produced afucosylated PGT121 in controlling HIV-1 replication in vivo are warranted.
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