Send to

Choose Destination
Protein Sci. 2008 Dec;17(12):2091-100. doi: 10.1110/ps.038273.108. Epub 2008 Sep 18.

Characterization of the steric defense of the HIV-1 gp41 N-trimer region.

Author information

Department of Biochemistry, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112-5650, USA.


During viral entry, HIV gp41 adopts a transient conformation called the "prehairpin intermediate" in which a highly conserved therapeutic target, the N-trimer, is exposed. Despite extensive discovery efforts, potent and broadly neutralizing antibodies that target the N-trimer are elusive. We previously demonstrated the N-trimer is protected by a steric block that prevents large proteins, such as antibodies, from accessing it. Here we further characterize the steric block and identify its source. To study the N-trimer steric accessibility, we produced two sets of C-peptide inhibitors (a potent inhibitor targeting the N-trimer) fused to cargo proteins of increasing size facing either the virus or cell side of the prehairpin intermediate. Both bulky inhibitor sets show a steric block, but the effect is more pronounced with virus-side cargo. Additionally, both sets maintain their potencies in a modified entry assay that removes possible sources of target cell steric hindrance. These results implicate a viral source, likely gp120, as the primary component of the steric block. In addition, we studied the steric accessibility of the "pocket" region of the N-trimer, a highly attractive drug and vaccine target. We demonstrated a pocket-specific antibody, D5, is more potent as an scFv than as a full-length IgG, suggesting the N-trimer steric restriction extends to the pocket. This characterization will facilitate the design of sterically restricted antigens that mimic the steric environment of the N-trimer in the prehairpin intermediate and are capable of inducing potent and broadly neutralizing antibodies that circumvent the N-trimer steric block.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center