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EMBO J. 2006 Oct 18;25(20):5026-35. Epub 2006 Sep 28.

Restraining the conformation of HIV-1 gp120 by removing a flexible loop.

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Laboratory of Molecular Medicine, The Children's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The trimeric HIV/SIV envelope glycoprotein, gp160, is cleaved to noncovalently associated fragments, gp120 and gp41. Binding of gp120 to viral receptors leads to large structural rearrangements in both fragments. The unliganded gp120 core has a disordered beta3-beta5 loop, which reconfigures upon CD4 binding into an ordered, extended strand. Molecular modeling suggests that residues in this loop may contact gp41. We show here that deletions in the beta3-beta5 loop of HIV-1 gp120 weaken the binding of CD4 and prevent formation of the epitope for monoclonal antibody (mAb) 17b (which recognizes the coreceptor site). Formation of an encounter complex with CD4 binding and interactions of gp120 with mAbs b12 and 2G12 are not affected by these deletions. Thus, deleting the beta3-beta5 loop blocks the gp120 conformational change and may offer a strategy for design of restrained immunogens. Moreover, mutations in the SIV beta3-beta5 loop lead to greater spontaneous dissociation of gp120 from cell-associated trimers. We suggest that the CD4-induced rearrangement of this loop releases structural constraints on gp41 and thus potentiates its fusion activity.

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