Kenneth Roux and his colleagues reveal a fresh three-dimensional look at the spike proteins on HIV's coating that allow it to bind and fuse with human cells. The study, published online by Nature, may help design better vaccines that prompt the body to cripple the spike protein.
Researchers have glimpsed partial structures of spike proteins before, using crystallography. This team used cryoelectron microscopy tomography to scrutinize spikes intact on the virus without fixing or staining. They find that HIV and its monkey equivalent SIV have around 14 and 73 spikes respectively, with some clustering. They show that the three gp120 proteins in each spike consist of a lobed head and a three-legged stalk - and use comparisons with atomic structures to gain insight into the mechanism of fusion.
Kenneth H Roux (Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, USA)
Abstract available online
(C) Nature press release.
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