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PLoS One. 2013 Jul 23;8(7):e69406. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069406. Print 2013.

A twin-cysteine motif in the V2 region of gp120 is associated with SIV envelope trimer stabilization.

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  • 1Nebraska Center for Virology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States of America.


The V1 and V2 variable regions of the primate immunodeficiency viruses contribute to the trimer association domain of the gp120 exterior envelope glycoprotein. A pair of V2 cysteine residues at 183 and 191 ("twin cysteines") is present in several simian immunodeficiency viruses, human immunodeficiency virus type 2 (HIV-2) and some SIV(cpz) lineages, but not in HIV-1. To examine the role of this potentially disulfide-bonded twin-cysteine motif, the cysteine residues in the SIVmac239 envelope glycoproteins were individually and pairwise substituted by alanine residues. All of the twin-cysteine mutants exhibited decreases in gp120 association with the Env trimer, membrane-fusing activity, and ability to support virus entry. Thus, the twin-cysteine motif plays a role in Env trimer stabilization in SIV and may do so in HIV-2 and some SIV(cpz) as well. This implies that HIV-1 lost the twin-cysteines, and may have relatively unstable Env trimers compared to SIV and HIV-2.

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