- The peptide N-acetyl-KWASLWNWFNITNWLWYIK-amide has a sequence that corresponds to the juxtamembrane region of the HIV-1 gp41 fusion protein. We have studied how cholesterol modulates the interaction of this peptide with membranes containing cholesterol using differential scanning calorimetry, circular dichroism, fluorescence spectroscopy, and nuclear magnetic resonance. We find that this peptide is less able to sequester cholesterol into domains than is N-acetyl-LWYIK-amide. On the other hand, the peptide N-acetyl-LASWIK-amide, which corresponds to a segment of HIV-2 and SIV gp41 fusion proteins, has intermediate potency between N-acetyl-KWASLWNWFNITNWLWYIK-amide and N-acetyl-LWYIK-amide in forming areas enriched in cholesterol, even though it does not have a cholesterol recognition/interaction amino acid consensus sequence (CRAC). We suggest that the difference between HIV-1 and HIV-2 in their requirements for glycosphingolipids in determining their tropism is related to their difference in partitioning to cholesterol-rich domains in biological membranes.