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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2002 Dec 23;1567(1-2):157-64.

Identification of a conserved domain of the HIV-1 transmembrane protein gp41 which interacts with cholesteryl groups.

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Groupe Immunité des Muqueuses et Agents Pathogènes, University of Saint-Etienne, 15 rue Ambroise Paré, 42023 Saint-Etienne Cedex 02, France.


A soluble form of the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein gp160 devoid of the transmembrane anchor domain was found to bind to cholesteryl-hemisuccinate agarose. The external subunit gp120 failed to bind to the resin, suggesting that the site responsible for the binding to cholesterol was located in the transmembrane protein gp41. We constructed a series of maltose binding protein (MBP) fusion proteins representing overlapping fragments of the gp41 molecule and we studied their capacity to bind to cholesteryl beads. The domain responsible for binding to cholesterol was localised within the residues 668 to 684 immediately adjacent to the membrane spanning domain. We identified a short sequence (LWYIK, aa 678-683) comparable to the cholesterol interaction amino acid consensus pattern published by Li and Papadopoulos [Endocrinology 139 (1998) 4991]. We demonstrated that the sequence LWYIK synthesized fused to the MBP was able to bind to cholesteryl groups. A synthetic peptide containing the sequence LWYIK was found to inhibit the interaction between cholesteryl beads and MBP44, an MBP fusion HIV-1 envelope protein that contains the putative cholesterol binding domain. Human sera obtained from HIV-1 seropositive patients did not react in ELISA to the LWYIK sequence, suggesting that this region is not exposed to the immune system. The biological significance of the interaction between gp41 and cholesterol is discussed.

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