On the Interaction Between gp41 and Membranes: The Immunodominant Loop Stabilizes gp41 Helical Hairpin Conformation Academic Article uri icon

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  • gp41 is the protein responsible for the process of membrane fusion that allows primate lentiviruses (HIV and SIV) to enter into their host cells. gp41 ectodomain contains an N-terminal and a C-terminal heptad repeat region (NHR and CHR) connected by an immunodominant loop. In the absence of membranes, the NHR and CHR segments fold into a protease-resistant core with a trimeric helical hairpin structure. However, when the immunodominant loop is not present (either in a complex formed by HIV-1 gp41-derived NHR and CHR peptides or by mild treatment with protease of recombinant constructs of HIV-1 gp41 ectodomain, which also lack the N-terminal fusion peptide and the C-terminal Trp-rich region) membrane binding induces a conformational change in the gp41 core structure. Here, we further investigated whether covalently linking the NHR and CHR segments by the immunodominant loop affects this conformational change. Specifically, we analyzed a construct corresponding to a fragment of SIVmac239 gp41ectodomain (residues 27-149, named e-gp41) by means of surface plasmon resonance, Trp and rhodamine fluorescence, ATR-FTIR spectroscopy, and differential scanning calorimetry. Our results suggest that the presence of the loop stabilizes the trimeric helical hairpin both when e-gp41 is in aqueous solution and when it is bound to the membrane surface. Bearing in mind possible differences between HIV-1 and SIV gp41, and considering that the gp41 ectodomain constructs analyzed to date lack the N-terminal fusion peptide and the C-terminal Trp-rich region, we discuss our observations in relation to the mechanism of virus-induced membrane fusion.


  • Peisajovich, Sergio G
  • Blank, Lior
  • Epand, Raquel F
  • Epand, Richard
  • Shai, Yechiel

publication date

  • March 2003

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