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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Aug 15, 1991; 88(16): 7131–7134.

Galactosyl ceramide or a derivative is an essential component of the neural receptor for human immunodeficiency virus type 1 envelope glycoprotein gp120.


This report demonstrates that galactosyl ceramide (GalCer) or a molecule derived from it may serve as an alternative receptor for human immunodeficiency virus in the nervous system. Recombinant gp120, an envelope glycoprotein of human immunodeficiency virus type 1, specifically binds to GalCer and its derivatives. This specificity was studied by inhibiting binding of radioiodinated gp120 to GalCer with antibodies to GalCer, antibodies to gp120, and an excess of unlabeled gp120. Binding activity was also removed by absorbing gp120 with liposomes containing GalCer. In addition, studies using natural and semisynthetic lipids indicate that the linkage between galactose and ceramide is essential for binding. The significance of an alternative receptor for human immunodeficiency virus in the nervous system is discussed.

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