The envelope of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) plays a central role in the process of virus entry into the host cell and in the cytopathicity of the virus for lymphocytes bearing the CD4 molecule. Mutations that affect the ability of the envelope glycoprotein to form syncytia in CD4+ cells can be divided into five groups: those that decrease the binding of the envelope protein to the CD4 molecule, those that prevent a post-binding fusion reaction, those that disrupt the anchorage of the envelope glycoprotein in the membrane, those that affect the association of the two subunits of the envelope glycoprotein, and those that affect post-translational proteolytic processing of the envelope precursor protein. These findings provide a functional model of the HIV envelope glycoprotein.

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