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AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 1992 Jan;8(1):9-18.

Investigation of human immunodeficiency virus fusion peptides. Analysis of interrelations between their structure and function.

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D.I. Ivanovsky Institute of Virology, Moscow, USSR.


The N-terminal region of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) gp41 appears to be involved in virus-cell membrane fusion. To study the influence of fusion domain structure on gp41 interaction with artificial lipid membranes, two families of peptides were synthesized. The peptides of the first family starting from the C-terminal Gly-532 of gp160 (BRU isolate) were assembled in a stepwise manner to N-terminus of gp41(Ala-517). These hydrophobic peptides, containing 10-16 amino acid residues (a.a.), were able to form channel-like current fluctuation through planar lipid membranes, and the longest 15-16 a.a. peptides lysed the liposomes. Peptides of the second family beginning from the C-terminal Arg-538 and continuing to Val-510 contained several hydrophilic amino acid residues. These 15-22 a.a. peptides also increased the conductance of planar lipid bilayers and lysed liposomes. The degree of liposome lysis depended upon peptide length and concentration. The attachment of gp120 C-terminal amino acid or peptides to N-terminus of 517-538 peptide resulted in complete loss of activity. The effects of the second family of peptides on membranes were reduced to a great extent at acidic pH. The conjugation of 22 a.a. Lys peptide with bovine serum albumin decreased its lytic activity. The circular dichroism study of these peptides revealed alpha-helix configuration in hydrophobic and aqueous media only for deca- and longer peptides. The electron microscopy of 22 a.a. peptide performed in the aqueous medium showed large spherical aggregates about 0.5-0.7 micron in diameter consisting of long filaments approximately 5 nm in diameter. Other tested peptides could generate only short strings. Thus, the effects of fusion peptides on lipid membranes depends on their sequence and length, secondary and tertiary structures, and freedom of their N-terminus.

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