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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Jul 1987; 84(13): 4601–4605.
PMCID: PMC305138

Human T-cell lymphotropic virus IIIB glycoprotein (gp120) bound to CD4 determinants on normal lymphocytes and expressed by infected cells serves as target for immune attack.


The lymphocyte differentiation antigen CD4 serves as a receptor for human retroviruses associated with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) through its interaction with the major envelope virion glycoprotein, gp120, which is also expressed on the surface of infected cells. In these experiments, purified gp120 was shown to bind to normal human T-lymphocyte populations. The gp120-CD4 complex served as a target antigen for antibody-dependent complement-mediated cytolysis by a goat serum raised against native gp120. However, patient sera that bound to gp120-adsorbed cells failed to direct their destruction in the presence of complement. In contrast, these sera were potent mediators of antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity. These studies demonstrate that gp120 situated on the cell surface can serve as an effective target for immune destruction by patient antibodies and effector lymphocytes. The possible contribution of this type of immunity to control of disease progression, on the one hand, and to lymphocyte destruction and immunopathology observed in AIDS, on the other, is discussed.

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