We have mapped the binding sites on human papillomavirus (HPV) type 6 for three HPV 6-specific neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). The critical binding residues were first identified by making HPV 11-like amino acid substitutions in the HPV 6 major capsid protein L1 and assaying the resulting virus-like particles (VLPs) for reactivity with the mAbs. To confirm the relevance of these residues for mAb binding, we demonstrated that HPV 6 type-specificity could be transferred to HPV 11 VLPs by making the appropriate HPV 6-like amino acid substitutions in the HPV 11 L1. Two binding regions were found. For one mAb, all critical residues are centered at residue 53, while for the other two mAbs, type-specific binding also requires a second site located more than 100 residues distal to the first. Both binding sites coincide with regions of L1 where the sequences of the closely related HPV 6 and 11 diverge. These regions are where the L1 sequences are the least well conserved among all HPV types and they have been implicated in type-specific binding for other HPV types. This suggests that clusters of diverged residues, surrounded by conserved L1 sequences, are presented on the surface of assembled particles and are responsible for eliciting critical humoral immune responses to the virus.
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