Release of GP120 restraints leads to an entry-competent intermediate state of the HIV-1 envelope glycoproteins
HIV Envelope Protein gp120
The envelope glycoproteins (Env) of HIV-1 mediate virus entry and are the sole targets of neutralizing antibodies. Understanding the way that Env promotes HIV-1 entry can expedite drug and vaccine development. By destabilizing Env, we found that it assumes an intermediate state that is functional and obligate for transitions to entry-competent conformations. Increased sampling of this state enhances the ability of HIV-1 to infect cells that express low levels of the CD4 receptor and allows the virus to evade neutralizing antibodies and small-molecule inhibitors. These findings provide new mechanistic insights into the function and inhibition of HIV-1 Env and will contribute to ongoing therapeutic and prevention efforts to combat HIV-1.