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Top HIV Med. 2004 Oct-Nov;12(4):100-3.

Unwelcome guests with master keys: how HIV enters cells and how it can be stopped.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.


HIV entry to host cells begins with binding of the viral envelope protein to CD4 molecules on the host cell surface. This binding initiates conformational changes in the envelope protein that result in binding to a coreceptor (CCR5 or CXCR4), exposure of a previously hidden domain in the viral protein, insertion of a viral fusion peptide into the host-cell membrane and fusing the viral and cell membranes. Each of these steps provides an opportunity for intervention to prevent viral entry, and a number of agents targeting these steps are in development. Studies of coreceptor inhibitors and fusion inhibitors have indicated the presence of host and viral factors that can result in variability of antiretroviral effect. Improved understanding of these factors will help to guide clinical use of these new agents. This article summarizes a presentation by Robert W. Doms, MD, PhD, at the International AIDS Society-USA course in Chicago in May 2004.

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