Fusion of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) with target cells is mediated by the gp41 transmembrane envelope protein. The loop region within gp41 contains 2 crucial cysteines that play an unknown role in HIV-cell fusion. On the basis of cell-cell fusion assay, using human T-cell lines [Jurkat E6-1 and Jurkat HXBc2(4)], and virus-cell fusion assay, using fully infectious HIV-1 HXBc2 virus and TZM-bl human cell line, we provide evidence that the oxidation state of the disulfide bond within a loop domain peptide determines its activity. The oxidized (closed) form inhibits fusion, while the reduced (opened) form enhances hemifusion. These opposite activities reach 60% difference in viral fusion. Both forms of the loop domain interact with gp41: the opened form enhances gp41 folding into a bundle, whereas the closed form inhibits this folding. Therefore, the transformation of the cysteines from a reduced to an oxidized state enables the loop to convert from opened to closed conformations, which assists gp41 to fold and induces hemifusion. The significant conservation of the loop region within many envelope proteins suggests a general mechanism, which is exploited by viruses to enhance entry into their host cells.—Ashkenazi, A., Viard, M., Wexler-Cohen, Y., Blumenthal, R., Shai, Y. Viral envelope protein folding and membrane hemifusion are enhanced by the conserved loop region of HIV-1 gp41
To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.