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Dynamic electrophoretic fingerprinting of the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein

Daniel J Stieh1, Joshua L Phillips2, Paul M Rogers3, Deborah F King3, Gianguido C Cianci4, Simon A Jeffs3, Sandrasegaram Gnanakaran2 and Robin J Shattock3*

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Infection, Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, St George’s, University of London, London, SW17 0RE, UK

2 Theoretical Division, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico, USA

3 Mucosal Infection & Immunity Group, Section of Infectious Diseases, Imperial College London, St Mary’s Campus, London, W2 1PG, UK

4 Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, 60611, USA

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Retrovirology 2013, 10:33  doi:10.1186/1742-4690-10-33

Published: 20 March 2013

Abstract

Background

Interactions between the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env) and its primary receptor CD4 are influenced by the physiological setting in which these events take place. In this study, we explored the surface chemistry of HIV-1 Env constructs at a range of pH and salinities relevant to mucosal and systemic compartments through electrophoretic mobility (EM) measurements. Sexual transmission events provide a more acidic environment for HIV-1 compared to dissemination and spread of infection occurring in blood or lymph node. We hypothesize functional, trimeric Env behaves differently than monomeric forms.

Results

The dynamic electrophoretic fingerprint of trimeric gp140 revealed a change in EM from strongly negative to strongly positive as pH increased from that of the lower female genital tract (pHx) to that of the blood (pHy). Similar findings were observed using a trimeric influenza Haemagglutinin (HA) glycoprotein, indicating that this may be a general attribute of trimeric viral envelope glycoproteins. These findings were supported by computationally modeling the surface charge of various gp120 and HA crystal structures. To identify the behavior of the infectious agent and its target cells, EM measurements were made on purified whole HIV-1 virions and primary T-lymphocytes. Viral particles had a largely negative surface charge, and lacked the regions of positivity near neutral pH that were observed with trimeric Env. T cells changed their surface chemistry as a function of activation state, becoming more negative over a wider range of pH after activation. Soluble recombinant CD4 (sCD4) was found to be positively charged under a wide range of conditions. Binding studies between sCD4 and gp140 show that the affinity of CD4-gp140 interactions depends on pH.

Conclusions

Taken together, these findings allow a more complete model of the electrochemical forces involved in HIV-1 Env functionality. These results indicate that the influence of the localized environment on the interactions of HIV with target cells are more pronounced than previously appreciated. There is differential chemistry of trimeric, but not monomeric, Env under conditions which mimic the mucosa compared to those found systemically. This should be taken into consideration during design of immunogens which targets virus at mucosal portals of entry.