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J Virol. 2000 Jan;74(2):627-43.

A recombinant human immunodeficiency virus type 1 envelope glycoprotein complex stabilized by an intermolecular disulfide bond between the gp120 and gp41 subunits is an antigenic mimic of the trimeric virion-associated structure.

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Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York 10016, USA.


The few antibodies that can potently neutralize human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) recognize the limited number of envelope glycoprotein epitopes exposed on infectious virions. These native envelope glycoprotein complexes comprise three gp120 subunits noncovalently and weakly associated with three gp41 moieties. The individual subunits induce neutralizing antibodies inefficiently but raise many nonneutralizing antibodies. Consequently, recombinant envelope glycoproteins do not elicit strong antiviral antibody responses, particularly against primary HIV-1 isolates. To try to develop recombinant proteins that are better antigenic mimics of the native envelope glycoprotein complex, we have introduced a disulfide bond between the C-terminal region of gp120 and the immunodominant segment of the gp41 ectodomain. The resulting gp140 protein is processed efficiently, producing a properly folded envelope glycoprotein complex. The association of gp120 with gp41 is now stabilized by the supplementary intermolecular disulfide bond, which forms with approximately 50% efficiency. The gp140 protein has antigenic properties which resemble those of the virion-associated complex. This type of gp140 protein may be worth evaluating for immunogenicity as a component of a multivalent HIV-1 vaccine.

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