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FEBS Lett. 2000 Jul 14;477(1-2):145-9.

The pre-transmembrane region of the human immunodeficiency virus type-1 glycoprotein: a novel fusogenic sequence.

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Unidad de Biofisica, Departamento de Bioquimica, Universidaad del Pais Vasco, Aptdo, 644, 48080, Bilboa, Spain.


We have investigated membrane interactions and perturbations induced by NH(2)-DKWASLWNWFNITNWLWYIK-COOH (HIV(c)), representing the membrane interface-partitioning region that precedes the transmembrane anchor of the human immunodeficiency virus type-1 gp41 fusion protein. The HIV(c) peptide bound with high affinity to electrically neutral vesicles composed of dioleoylphosphatidylcholine, dioleoylphosphatidylethanolamine and cholesterol (molar ratio, 1:1:1), and induced vesicle leakage and lipid mixing. Infrared spectra suggest that these effects were promoted by membrane-associated peptides adopting an alpha-helical conformation. A sequence representing a defective gp41 phenotype unable to mediate both cell-cell fusion and virus entry, was equally unable to induce vesicle fusion, and adopted a non-helical conformation in the membrane. We conclude that membrane perturbation and adoption of the alpha-helical conformation by this gp41 region might be functionally meaningful.

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