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J Mol Biol. 2011 Jul 22;410(4):582-608. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2011.04.042.

HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein biosynthesis, trafficking, and incorporation.

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Virus-Cell Interaction Section, HIV Drug Resistance Program, NCI-Frederick, Frederick, MD 21702-1201, USA.


The HIV-1 envelope (Env) glycoproteins play an essential role in the virus replication cycle by mediating the fusion between viral and cellular membranes during the entry process. The Env glycoproteins are synthesized as a polyprotein precursor (gp160) that is cleaved by cellular proteases to the mature surface glycoprotein gp120 and the transmembrane glycoprotein gp41. During virus assembly, the gp120/gp41 complex is incorporated as heterotrimeric spikes into the lipid bilayer of nascent virions. These gp120/gp41 complexes then initiate the infection process by binding receptor and coreceptor on the surface of target cells. Much is currently known about the HIV-1 Env glycoprotein trafficking pathway and the structure of gp120 and the extracellular domain of gp41. However, the mechanism by which the Env glycoprotein complex is incorporated into virus particles remains incompletely understood. Genetic data support a major role for the cytoplasmic tail of gp41 and the matrix domain of Gag in Env glycoprotein incorporation. Still to be defined are the identities of host cell factors that may promote Env incorporation and the role of specific membrane microdomains in this process. Here, we review our current understanding of HIV-1 Env glycoprotein trafficking and incorporation into virions.

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