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Promoting trimerization of soluble human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) Env through the use of HIV-1/simian immunodeficiency virus chimeras.

Center RJ, Lebowitz J, Leapman RD, Moss B

  • Journal Journal of virology

  • Published 08 Mar 2004

  • Volume 78

  • ISSUE 5

  • Pagination 2265-76

  • DOI 10.1128/jvi.78.5.2265-2276.2004


The envelope proteins (Env) of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) form homo-oligomers in the endoplasmic reticulum. The oligomeric structure of Env is maintained, but is less stable, after cleavage in a Golgi compartment and transport to the surface of infected cells. Functional, virion-associated HIV-1 and SIV Env have an almost exclusively trimeric structure. In addition, a soluble form of SIV Env (gp140) forms a nearly homogeneous population of trimers. Here, we describe the oligomeric structure of soluble, uncleaved HIV-1 gp140 and modifications that promote a stable trimeric structure. Biochemical and biophysical analyses, including sedimentation equilibrium and scanning transmission electron microscopy, revealed that unmodified HIV-1 gp140 purified as a heterogeneous range of oligomeric species, including dimers and aggregates. Deletion of the V2 domain alone or, especially, both the V1 and V2 domains reduced dimer formation but promoted aggregation rather than trimerization. Expressing gp140 with mannose-only oligosaccharides did not eliminate heterogeneity. Replacement of the entire gp41 segment of HIV-1 gp140 or just the N-terminal half (85 amino acids) of this segment with the corresponding region of SIV was sufficient to confer efficient trimerization for gp140 derived from clade B and C isolates. Importantly, the relatively small segment of the HIV Env replaced by SIV sequences contains no known targets of neutralizing antibody. The soluble trimeric form of HIV-1 Env should prove useful for assessment of antigenic structure and immunogenicity.