Research Article

Cryo-EM Structure of a Fully Glycosylated Soluble Cleaved HIV-1 Envelope Trimer

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Science  20 Dec 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6165, pp. 1484-1490
DOI: 10.1126/science.1245627

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Knowing the Enemy

Infection of host cells by HIV-1 is mediated by an envelope glycoprotein (Env) trimeric spike on the surface of the virus. Proteins comprising the Env trimer must be cleaved for infectivity, and thus viral fusion involves three Env conformations. The flexibility of the Env trimer has made it a challenge to determine a high-resolution structure, although such a structure is key both for understanding trimer function and for guiding vaccine design. Lyumkis et al. (p. 1484) and Julien et al. (p. 1477) studied soluble cleaved trimers stabilized by specific mutations but that have kept a near-native antigenicity profile. Lyumkis et al. present a high-resolution structure of the trimer in complex with a broadly neutralizing antibody, and Julien et al. present a crystal structure of the trimer in complex with another broadly neutralizing antibody.


The HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env) trimer contains the receptor binding sites and membrane fusion machinery that introduce the viral genome into the host cell. As the only target for broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs), Env is a focus for rational vaccine design. We present a cryo–electron microscopy reconstruction and structural model of a cleaved, soluble Env trimer (termed BG505 SOSIP.664 gp140) in complex with a CD4 binding site (CD4bs) bnAb, PGV04, at 5.8 angstrom resolution. The structure reveals the spatial arrangement of Env components, including the V1/V2, V3, HR1, and HR2 domains, as well as shielding glycans. The structure also provides insights into trimer assembly, gp120-gp41 interactions, and the CD4bs epitope cluster for bnAbs, which covers a more extensive area and defines a more complex site of vulnerability than previously described.

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