The frantic play of the concealed HIV envelope cytoplasmic tail
Laboratory of Retrovirology, CRP-Santé, 184 Val Fleuri, Luxembourg L-1526, USA
Retrovirology 2013, 10:54 doi:10.1186/1742-4690-10-54Published: 24 May 2013
Lentiviruses have unusually long envelope (Env) cytoplasmic tails, longer than those of other retroviruses. Whereas the Env ectodomain has received much attention, the gp41 cytoplasmic tail (gp41-CT) is one of the least studied parts of the virus. It displays relatively high conservation compared to the rest of Env. It has been long established that the gp41-CT interacts with the Gag precursor protein to ensure Env incorporation into the virion. The gp41-CT contains distinct motifs and domains that mediate both intensive Env intracellular trafficking and interactions with numerous cellular and viral proteins, optimizing viral infectivity. Although they are not fully understood, a multiplicity of interactions between the gp41-CT and cellular factors have been described over the last decade; these interactions illustrate how Env expression and incorporation into virions is a finely tuned process that has evolved to best exploit the host system with minimized genetic information. This review addresses the structure and topology of the gp41-CT of lentiviruses (mainly HIV and SIV), their domains and believed functions. It also considers the cellular and viral proteins that have been described to interact with the gp41-CT, with a particular focus on subtype-related polymorphisms.