Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 14645067
Biophys. J. 2003 Dec;85(6):3769-80
The membrane-proximal segment connecting the helical core with the transmembrane anchor of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 gp41 is accessible to broadly neutralizing antibodies and plays a crucial role in fusion activity. New predictive approaches including computation of interfacial affinity and the corresponding hydrophobic moments suggest that this region is functionally segmented into two consecutive subdomains: one amphipathic at the N-terminal side and one fully interfacial at the C-terminus. The N-terminal subdomain would extend alpha-helices from the preceding carboxy-terminal heptad repeat and provide, at the same time, a hydrophobic-at-interface surface. Experiments were performed to compare a wild-type representing pretransmembrane peptide with a nonamphipathic defective sequence, which otherwise conserved interfacial hydrophobicity at the carboxy-subdomain. Results confirmed that both penetrated equally well into lipid monolayers and both were able to partition into membrane interfaces. However only the functional sequence: 1), adopted helical structures in solution and in membranes; 2), formed homo-oligomers in solution and membranes; and 3), inhibited gp41-induced cell-cell fusion. These data support two roles for gp41 aromatic-rich pretransmembrane sequence: 1), oligomerization of gp41; and 2), immersion into the viral membrane interface. Accessibility to membrane interfaces and subsequent adoption of the low-energy structure may augment helical bundle formation and perhaps be related to a concomitant loss of immunoreactivity. These results may have implications in the development of HIV-1 fusion inhibitors and vaccines.