The envelope glycoproteins of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) function as a trimer composed of three gp120 exterior glycoproteins and three gp41 transmembrane proteins. Soluble gp140 glycoproteins composed of the uncleaved ectodomains of gp120 and gp41 form unstable, heterogeneous oligomers, but soluble gp140 trimers can be stabilized by fusion with a C-terminal, trimeric GCN4 motif (X. Yang et al., J. Virol. 74:5716-5725, 2000). To understand the influence of the C-terminal trimerization domain on the properties of soluble HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein trimers, uncleaved, soluble gp140 glycoproteins were stabilized by fusion with another trimeric motif derived from T4 bacteriophage fibritin. The fibritin construct was more stable to heat and reducing conditions than the GCN4 construct. Both GCN4- and fibritin-stabilized soluble gp140 glycoproteins exhibited patterns of neutralizing and nonneutralizing antibody binding expected for the functional envelope glycoprotein spike. Of note, two potently neutralizing antibodies, immunoglobulin G1b12 and 2G12, exhibited the greatest recognition of the stabilized, soluble trimers, relative to recognition of the gp120 monomer. The observed similarities between the GCN4 and fibritin constructs indicate that the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein ectodomains dictate many of the antigenic and structural features of these fusion proteins. The melting temperatures and ligand recognition properties of the GCN4- and fibritin-stabilized soluble gp140 glycoproteins suggest that these molecules assume conformations distinct from that of the fusion-active, six-helix bundle.
The initial step in target cell infection by human, and the closely related simian immunodeficiency viruses (HIV and SIV, respectively) occurs with the binding of trimeric envelope glycoproteins (Env), composed of heterodimers of the viral transmembrane glycoprotein (gp41) and surface glycoprotein (gp120) to target T-cells. Knowledge of the molecular structure of trimeric Env on intact viruses is important both for understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying virus-cell interactions and for the design of effective immunogen-based vaccines to combat HIV/AIDS. Previous analyses of intact HIV-1 BaL virions have already resulted in structures of trimeric Env in unliganded and CD4-liganded states at ∼20 Å resolution. Here, we show that the molecular architectures of trimeric Env from SIVmneE11S, SIVmac239 and HIV-1 R3A strains are closely comparable to that previously determined for HIV-1 BaL, with the V1 and V2 variable loops located at the apex of the spike, close to the contact zone between virus and cell. The location of the V1/V2 loops in trimeric Env was definitively confirmed by structural analysis of HIV-1 R3A virions engineered to express Env with deletion of these loops. Strikingly, in SIV CP-MAC, a CD4-independent strain, trimeric Env is in a constitutively “open” conformation with gp120 trimers splayed out in a conformation similar to that seen for HIV-1 BaL Env when it is complexed with sCD4 and the CD4i antibody 17b. Our findings suggest a structural explanation for the molecular mechanism of CD4-independent viral entry and further establish that cryo-electron tomography can be used to discover distinct, functionally relevant quaternary structures of Env displayed on intact viruses.
HIV and SIV contact and infect target T-cells following the binding of trimeric Env spikes displayed on the viral membrane with cellular receptors. The conformational changes in trimeric Env that are triggered by the interaction between trimeric Env and cell surface receptors lead ultimately to fusion of the viral and cell membranes and delivery of the viral core into infected cells. Knowledge of the molecular structures of trimeric Env at different stages of virus-cell contact is therefore of fundamental interest for defining viral entry mechanisms and vaccine design. Cryo-electron tomography is a powerful structural tool to determine the structures of viral spikes when they are present on the surface of intact virions. Using this approach, we have determined the molecular structures of several SIV and HIV-1 strains, including an SIV strain that does not require cell surface receptor CD4 for entry and infection. Our results represent the first experimental demonstration that strain differences can result in distinct unliganded spike conformation as displayed on the surface of intact virions. The differences in structure between the different strains correlate with functional differences displayed by the viruses, and suggest a novel molecular explanation for the mechanism of CD4-independent viral entry.
Envelope glycoproteins (Env) of retroviruses are trimers of SU (surface) and TM (transmembrane) heterodimers and are expressed on virions in fusion-competent forms that are likely to be metastable. Activation of the viral receptor-binding domain (RBD) via its interaction with a cell surface receptor is thought to initiate a cascade of events that lead to refolding of the Env glycoprotein into its stable fusion-active conformation. While the fusion-active conformation of the TM subunit has been described in detail for several retroviruses, little is known about the fusion-competent structure of the retroviral glycoproteins or the molecular events that mediate the transition between the two conformations. By characterizing Env chimeras between the ecotropic and amphotropic murine leukemia virus (MLV) SUs as well as a set of point mutants, we show that alterations of the conformation of the SU glycoprotein strongly elevate Env fusogenicity by disrupting the stability of the Env complex. Compensatory mutations that restored both Env stability and fusion control were also identified, allowing definition of interactions within the Env complex that maintain the stability of the native Env complex. We show that, in the receptor-unbound form, structural interactions between the N terminus of the viral RBD (NTR domain), the proline-rich region (PRR), and the distal part of the C-terminal domain of the SU subunit maintain a conformation of the glycoprotein that is fusion inhibitory. Additionally, we identified mutations that disrupt this fusion-inhibitory conformation and allow fusion activation in the absence of viral receptors, provided that receptor-activated RBD fragments are added in trans during infection. Other mutations were identified that allow fusion activation in the absence of receptors for both the viral glycoprotein and the trans-acting RBD. Finally, we found mutations of the SU that bypass in cis the requirement for the NTR domain in fusion activation. All these different mutations call for a critical role of the PRR in mediating conformational changes of the Env glycoprotein during fusion activation. Our results suggest a model of MLV Env fusion activation in which unlocking of the fusion-inhibitory conformation is initiated by receptor binding of the viral RBD, which, upon disruption of the PRR, allows the NTR domain to promote further events in Env fusion activation. This involves a second type of interaction, in cis or in trans, between the receptor-activated RBD and a median segment of the freed C-terminal domain.
The functional unit of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) envelope glycoproteins is a trimer composed of three gp120 exterior glycoproteins and three gp41 transmembrane glycoproteins. The lability of intersubunit interactions has hindered the production and characterization of soluble, homogeneous envelope glycoprotein trimers. Here we report three modifications that stabilize soluble forms of HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein trimers: disruption of the proteolytic cleavage site between gp120 and gp41, introduction of cysteines that form intersubunit disulfide bonds, and addition of GCN4 trimeric helices. Characterization of these secreted glycoproteins by immunologic and biophysical methods indicates that these stable trimers retain structural integrity. The efficacy of the GCN4 sequences in stabilizing the trimers, the formation of intersubunit disulfide bonds between appropriately placed cysteines, and the ability of the trimers to interact with a helical, C-terminal gp41 peptide (DP178) support a model in which the N-terminal gp41 coiled coil exists in the envelope glycoprotein precursor and contributes to intersubunit interactions within the trimer. The availability of stable, soluble HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein trimers should expedite progress in understanding the structure and function of the virion envelope glycoprotein spikes.
The V1 and V2 variable regions of the primate immunodeficiency viruses contribute to the trimer association domain of the gp120 exterior envelope glycoprotein. A pair of V2 cysteine residues at 183 and 191 (“twin cysteines”) is present in several simian immunodeficiency viruses, human immunodeficiency virus type 2 (HIV-2) and some SIVcpz lineages, but not in HIV-1. To examine the role of this potentially disulfide-bonded twin-cysteine motif, the cysteine residues in the SIVmac239 envelope glycoproteins were individually and pairwise substituted by alanine residues. All of the twin-cysteine mutants exhibited decreases in gp120 association with the Env trimer, membrane-fusing activity, and ability to support virus entry. Thus, the twin-cysteine motif plays a role in Env trimer stabilization in SIV and may do so in HIV-2 and some SIVcpz as well. This implies that HIV-1 lost the twin-cysteines, and may have relatively unstable Env trimers compared to SIV and HIV-2.
The envelope protein (Env) of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 forms homo-oligomers in the endoplasmic reticulum. The oligomeric structure of Env is maintained after cleavage in a Golgi compartment and transport to the surfaces of infected cells, where incorporation into budding virions takes place. Here, we use biophysical techniques to assess the oligomeric valency of virion-associated Env prior to fusion activation. Virion-associated Env oligomers were stabilized by chemical cross-linking prior to detergent extraction and were purified by immunoaffinity chromatography. Gel filtration revealed a single predominant oligomeric species, and sedimentation equilibrium analysis-derived mass values indicated a trimeric structure. Determination of the masses of individual Env molecules by scanning transmission electron microscopy demonstrated that virion-associated Env was trimeric, and a triangular morphology was observed in 20 to 30% of the molecules. These results, which firmly establish the oligomeric structure of human immunodeficiency virus virion-associated Env, parallel those of our previous analysis of the simian immunodeficiency virus Env.
The human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) envelope glycoproteins function as a membrane-anchored trimer of three gp120 exterior glycoproteins and three gp41 transmembrane glycoproteins. Previously, we reported three approaches to stabilize soluble trimers containing parts of the gp41 ectodomains: addition of GCN4 trimeric helices, disruption of the cleavage site between gp120 and gp41, and introduction of cysteines in the gp41 coiled coil to form intersubunit disulfide bonds. Here, we applied similar approaches to stabilize soluble gp140 trimers including the complete gp120 and gp41 ectodomains. A combination of fusion with the GCN4 trimeric sequences and disruption of the gp120-gp41 cleavage site resulted in relatively homogeneous gp140 trimers with exceptional stability. The gp120 epitopes recognized by neutralizing antibodies are intact and exposed on these gp140 trimers. By contrast, the nonneutralizing antibody epitopes on the gp120 subunits of the soluble trimers are relatively occluded compared with those on monomeric gp120 preparations. This antigenic similarity to the functional HIV-1 envelope glycoproteins and the presence of the complete gp41 ectodomain should make the soluble gp140 trimers useful tools for structural and immunologic studies.
The transmembrane subunit (TM) of the trimeric retrovirus Env complex is thought to direct virus-cell membrane fusion by refolding into a cell membrane-interacting, extended form that subsequently folds back on itself into a very stable trimer of hairpin-like TM polypeptides. However, so far there is only limited evidence for the formation of a stable TM trimer during Env activation. Here we have studied the oligomer composition and stability of an intermediate and the fully activated form of Moloney murine leukemia virus (Mo-MLV) Env. Activation of Mo-MLV Env is controlled by isomerization of its intersubunit disulfide. This results in surface subunit (SU) dissociation and TM refolding. If activation is done in the presence of an alkylator, this will modify the isomerization-active thiol in the SU of Env and arrest Env at an intermediate stage, the isomerization-arrested state (IAS) of its activation pathway. We generated IAS and fully activated Envs in vitro and in vivo and studied their states of oligomerization by two-dimensional blue native polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE) and nonreducing sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS)-PAGE. The IAS Env was composed of trimers of SU-TM complexes, whereas the activated Env consisted of SU monomers and TM trimers. When the oligomers were subjected to mild SDS treatment the TM trimer was found to be 3.5 times more resistant than the IAS oligomer. Thus, this demonstrates that a structural conversion of TM takes place during activation, which results in the formation of a stable TM trimer.
The human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) exterior envelope glycoprotein, gp120, mediates binding to the viral receptors and, along with the transmembrane glycoprotein gp41, is a major target for neutralizing antibodies. We asked whether replacing the gp41
fusion/trimerization domain with a stable trimerization motif might lead to a more stable gp120 trimer that would be amenable to structural
and immunologic analysis. To obtain stable gp120 trimers, a heterologous trimerization motif, GCN4, was appended to the C terminus
of YU2gp120. Biochemical analysis indicated that the gp120-GCN4 trimers were superior to gp140 molecules in their initial homogeneity, and
trilobed structures were observable by electron microscopy. Biophysical analysis of gp120-GCN4 trimers by isothermal titration calorimetry
(ITC) and ultracentrifugation analyses indicated that most likely two molecules of soluble CD4 could bind to one gp120-GCN4 trimer. To
further examine restricted CD4 stoichiometric binding to the gp120-GCN4 trimers, we generated a low-affinity CD4 binding trimer by introducing a D457V change in the CD4 binding site of each gp120 monomeric subunit. The mutant trimers could definitively bind only one soluble CD4 molecule, as determined by ITC and sedimentation equilibrium centrifugation. These data indicate that there are weak interactions
between the gp120 monomeric subunits of the GCN4-stabilized trimers that can be detected by low-affinity ligand sensing. By similar analysis, we also determined that removal of the variable loops V1, V2, and V3 in the context of the gp120-GCN4 proteins allowed the binding of
three CD4 molecules per trimer. Interestingly, both the gp120-GCN4 variants displayed a restricted stoichiometry for the CD4-induced antibody 17b of one antibody molecule binding per trimer. This restriction was not evident upon removal of the variable loops V1 and V2 loops, consistent with conformational constraints in the wild-type gp120 trimers and similar to those inherent in the functional Env spike. Thus, the gp120-GCN4 trimers demonstrate several properties that are consistent with some of those anticipated for gp120 in the context of the viral spike.
The envelope proteins (Env) of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) form homo-oligomers in the endoplasmic reticulum. The oligomeric structure of Env is maintained, but is less stable, after cleavage in a Golgi compartment and transport to the surface of infected cells. Functional, virion-associated HIV-1 and SIV Env have an almost exclusively trimeric structure. In addition, a soluble form of SIV Env (gp140) forms a nearly homogeneous population of trimers. Here, we describe the oligomeric structure of soluble, uncleaved HIV-1 gp140 and modifications that promote a stable trimeric structure. Biochemical and biophysical analyses, including sedimentation equilibrium and scanning transmission electron microscopy, revealed that unmodified HIV-1 gp140 purified as a heterogeneous range of oligomeric species, including dimers and aggregates. Deletion of the V2 domain alone or, especially, both the V1 and V2 domains reduced dimer formation but promoted aggregation rather than trimerization. Expressing gp140 with mannose-only oligosaccharides did not eliminate heterogeneity. Replacement of the entire gp41 segment of HIV-1 gp140 or just the N-terminal half (85 amino acids) of this segment with the corresponding region of SIV was sufficient to confer efficient trimerization for gp140 derived from clade B and C isolates. Importantly, the relatively small segment of the HIV Env replaced by SIV sequences contains no known targets of neutralizing antibody. The soluble trimeric form of HIV-1 Env should prove useful for assessment of antigenic structure and immunogenicity.
The external domains of the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (gp120 and the gp41 ectodomain, collectively known as gp140) contain all known viral neutralization epitopes. Various strategies have been used to create soluble trimers of the envelope to mimic the structure of the native viral protein, including mutation of the gp120-gp41 cleavage site, introduction of disulfide bonds, and fusion to heterologous trimerization motifs. We compared the effects on quaternary structure, antigenicity, and immunogenicity of three such motifs: T4 fibritin, a GCN4 variant, and the E. coli aspartate transcarbamoylase catalytic subunit. Fusion of each motif to the C-terminus of a non-cleavable JRCSF gp140(-) envelope protein led to enhanced trimerization but had limited effects on the antigenic profile and CD4 binding ability of the trimers. Immunization of rabbits provided no evidence that the trimerized gp140(-) constructs induced significantly improved neutralizing antibodies to several HIV-1 pseudoviruses, compared to gp140 lacking a trimerization motif. However, modest differences in both binding specificity and neutralizing antibody responses were observed among the various immunogens.
Vaccine; HIV-1; Envelope; trimerization motifs; ATCase; T4 fibritin; GCN; CD4; monoclonal antibody; immunization; neutralizing antibody
In recent years, structural studies have identified a number of bacterial, viral, and eukaryotic adhesive proteins that have a trimeric architecture. The prototype examples in bacteria are the Haemophilus influenzae Hia adhesin and the Yersinia enterocolitica YadA adhesin. Both Hia and YadA are members of the trimeric-autotransporter subfamily and are characterized by an internal passenger domain that harbors adhesive activity and a short C-terminal translocator domain that inserts into the outer membrane and facilitates delivery of the passenger domain to the bacterial surface. In this study, we examined the relationship between trimerization of the Hia and YadA passenger domains and the capacity for adhesive activity. We found that subunit-subunit interactions and stable trimerization are essential for native folding and stability and ultimately for full-level adhesive activity. These results raise the possibility that disruption of the trimeric architecture of trimeric autotransporters, and possibly other trimeric adhesins, may be an effective strategy to eliminate adhesive activity.
Virus-induced cell fusion has been studied after infection of Vero cells with measles virus. Scanning and transmission electron microscopy were combined with immunoperoxidase labeling of measles antigens to correlate viral production and distribution of virus-induced erythrocyte binding sites with progress of fusion. Release of infectious virus started before syncytia were detected and decreased while the number and size of syncytia were increasing. Most virions were seen budding from mononucleated cells or from the periphery of syncytia where cells were being recruited. Moving inward, the surfaces of syncytia where cells were being recruited. Moving inward, the surfaces of syncytia were covered with numerous ridges containing viral antigen, but few viral buds were seen, suggesting that syncytia might be sites of defective viral formation. Hemadsorption occurred predominantly within the confines of syncytia. Erythrocytes were scattered sparsely over immature syncytia but were densely packed in the center of mature syncytia. Active binding sites for erythrocytes were located on cell villi and ridges covered with measles antigens. Hemadsorption was completely inhibited in measles virus-infected cultures pretreated with virus-specific immunoglobulin G for 1 h at 4 degrees C. However, when these cultures were shifted to 37 degrees C, hemadsorbing sites were recovered at the periphery of enlarging syncytia. Virus-induced sites for erythrocyte adsorption were found to move centripetally on syncytium membranes as fusion progressed.
Trimers of the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env) effectuate viral entry into susceptible cells. Therefore Env trimers are the targets for neutralizing antibodies. This study models the number of trimers required for virion infectivity. It also delineates the minimum number of antibody molecules that would neutralize a virion. First, Env function was assumed to be incremental (all envelope-glycoprotein units contribute equally) or liminal (characterized by thresholds). Then, such models were combined and shown to fit published data on phenotypically mixed pseudotype viruses. Virions with 9 trimers would require around a median of 5 of them for strong infectivity; the proportion varies among strains and mutants. In addition, the models account for both liminal and incremental protomeric effects at the trimer level: Different inert Env mutants may affect trimer function in different degrees. Because of compensatory effects at the virion and trimer levels, however, current data cannot differentiate between all plausible models. But the biophysically and mathematically rationalized blurring of thresholds yields candidate models that fit different data excellently.
HIV-1; entry; envelope glycoprotein; trimer; phenotypic mixing; neutralization; molecularity; occupancy
The flavivirus dengue virus (DV) infects cells through a low-pH-triggered membrane fusion reaction mediated by the viral envelope protein E. E is an elongated transmembrane protein with three domains and is organized as a homodimer on the mature virus particle. During fusion, the E protein homodimer dissociates, inserts the hydrophobic fusion loop into target membranes, and refolds into a trimeric hairpin in which domain III (DIII) packs against the central trimer. It is clear that E refolding drives membrane fusion, but the steps in hairpin formation and their pH requirements are unclear. Here, we have used truncated forms of the DV E protein to reconstitute trimerization in vitro. Protein constructs containing domains I and II (DI/II) were monomeric and interacted with membranes to form core trimers. DI/II-membrane interaction and trimerization occurred efficiently at both neutral and low pH. The DI/II core trimer was relatively unstable and could be stabilized by binding exogenous DIII or by the formation of mixed trimers containing DI/II plus E protein with all three domains. The mixed trimer had unoccupied DIII interaction sites that could specifically bind exogenous DIII at either low or neutral pH. Truncated DV E proteins thus reconstitute hairpin formation and define properties of key domain interactions during DV fusion.
DNA vaccines expressing the envelope (Env) of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) have been relatively ineffective at generating high-titer, long-lasting immune responses. Oligomeric or trimeric (gp140) forms of Env that more closely mimic the native proteins on the virion are often more effective immunogens than monomeric (gp120) envelopes. In this study, several forms of Env constructed from the HIV-1 isolate YU-2 (HIV-1YU-2) were tested for their immunogenic potential: a trimeric form of uncleaved (−) Env stabilized with a synthetic trimer motif isolated from the fibritin (FT) protein of the T4 bacteriophage, sgp140YU-2(−/FT), was compared to sgp140YU-2(−) without a synthetic trimerization domain, as well as to monomeric gp120YU-2. DNA plasmids were constructed to express Env alone or fused to various copies of murine C3d (mC3d). BALB/c mice were vaccinated (day 1 and week 4) with DNA expressing a codon-optimized envelope gene insert, alone or fused to mC3d. Mice were subsequently boosted (week 8) with the DNA or recombinant Env protein. All mice had high anti-Env antibody titers regardless of the use of mC3d. Sera from mice vaccinated with DNA expressing non-C3d-fused trimers elicited neutralizing antibodies against homologous HIV-1YU-2 virus infection in vitro. In contrast, sera from mice inoculated with DNA expressing Env-C3d protein trimers elicited antibody that neutralized both homologous HIV-1YU-2 and heterologous HIV-1ADA, albeit at low titers. Therefore, DNA vaccines expressing trimeric envelopes coupled to mC3d, expressed in vivo from codon-optimized sequences, elicit low titers of neutralizing antibodies against primary isolates of HIV-1.
The fusion peptide of the avian sarcoma/leukosis virus (ASLV) envelope protein (Env) is internal, near the N terminus of its transmembrane (TM) subunit. As for most internal viral fusion peptides, there is a proline near the center of this sequence. Robson-Garnier structure predictions of the ASLV fusion peptide and immediate surrounding sequences indicate a region of order (β-sheet), a tight reverse turn containing the proline, and a second region of order (α-helix). Similar motifs (order, turn or loop, order) are predicted for other internal fusion peptides. In this study, we made and analyzed 12 Env proteins with substitutions for the central proline of the fusion peptide. Env proteins were expressed in 293T cells and in murine leukemia virus pseudotyped virions. We found the following. (i) All mutant Envs form trimers, but when the bulky hydrophobic residues phenylalanine or leucine are substituted for proline, trimerization is weakened. (ii) Surprisingly, the proline is required for maximal processing of the Env precursor into its surface and TM subunits; the amount of processing correlates linearly with the propensity of the substituted residue to be found in a reverse turn. (iii) Nonetheless, proteolytically processed forms of all Envs are preferentially incorporated into pseudotyped virions. (iv) All Envs bind receptor with affinity greater than or equal to wild-type affinity. (v) Residues that support high infectivity cluster with proline at intermediate hydrophobicity. Infectivity is not supported by mutant Envs in which charged residues are substituted for proline, nor is it supported by the trimerization-defective phenylalanine and leucine mutants. Our findings suggest that the central proline in the ASLV fusion peptide is important for the formation of the native (metastable) Env structure as well as for membrane interactions that lead to fusion.
Alphaviruses infect cells via a low-pH-triggered membrane fusion reaction mediated by the class II virus fusion protein E1, an elongated molecule with three extramembrane domains (DI–III). E1 drives fusion by inserting its fusion peptide loop into the target membrane and refolding to a hairpin-like trimer in which DIII moves toward the target membrane and packs against the central trimer. Three-dimensional structures provide static pictures of prefusion and postfusion E1 but do not explain this transition. Using truncated forms of E1, we reconstituted a low-pH-dependent intermediate composed of trimers of DI/II. Unexpectedly, DI/II trimers were stable in the absence of DIII. Once formed at a low pH, DI/II trimers efficiently and specifically bound recombinant DIII through a pH-independent reaction. Even in the absence of DIII, DI/II trimers interacted to form hexagonal lattices and to cause membrane deformation and tubulation. These studies identify a prefusion intermediate in class II membrane fusion.
The alphavirus Semliki Forest virus (SFV) uses a membrane fusion reaction to infect host cells. Fusion of the virus and cell membranes is triggered by low pH in the endosome and is mediated by the viral membrane protein E1. During fusion, E1 inserts into the target membrane, trimerizes, and refolds into a hairpin conformation. Formation of the E1 homotrimer is critical to membrane fusion, but the mechanism of trimerization is not understood. The crystal structure of the postfusion E1 trimer shows that an aspartate residue, D188, is positioned in the central core trimer interface. D188 is conserved in all reported alphavirus E1 sequences. We tested the contribution of this amino acid to trimerization and fusion by replacing D188 with alanine (D188A) or lysine (D188K) in an SFV infectious clone. These mutations were predicted to disrupt specific interactions at this position and/or change their pH dependence. Our results indicated that the D188K mutation blocked SFV fusion and infection. At low pH, D188K E1 inserted into target membranes but was trapped as a target membrane-inserted monomer that did not efficiently form the stable core trimer. In contrast, the D188A mutant was infectious, although trimerization and fusion required a lower pH. While there are extensive contacts between E1 subunits in the homotrimer, the D188K mutant identifies an important “hot spot” for protein-protein interactions within the core trimer.
A general model has been proposed for the fusion mechanisms of class I viral fusion proteins. According to this model a metastable trimer, anchored in the viral membrane through its transmembrane domain, transits to a trimeric prehairpin intermediate, anchored at its opposite end in the target membrane through its fusion peptide. A subsequent refolding event creates a trimer of hairpins (often termed a six-helix bundle) in which the previously well-separated transmembrane domain and fusion peptide (and their attached membranes) are brought together, thereby driving membrane fusion. While there is ample biochemical and structural information on the trimer-of-hairpins conformation of class I viral fusion proteins, less is known about intermediate states between native metastable trimers and the final trimer of hairpins. In this study we analyzed conformational states of the transmembrane subunit (TM), the fusion subunit, of the Env glycoprotein of the subtype A avian sarcoma and leukosis virus (ASLV-A). By analyzing forms of EnvA TM on mildly denaturing sodium dodecyl sulfate gels we identified five conformational states of EnvA TM. Following interaction of virions with a soluble form of the ASLV-A receptor at 37°C, the metastable form of EnvA TM (which migrates at 37 kDa) transits to a 70-kDa and then to a 150-kDa species. Following subsequent exposure to a low pH (or an elevated temperature or the fusion promoting agent chlorpromazine), an additional set of bands at >150 kDa, and then a final band at 100 kDa, forms. Both an EnvA C-helix peptide (which inhibits virus fusion and infectivity) and the fusion-inhibitory agent lysophosphatidylcholine inhibit the formation of the >150- and 100-kDa bands. Our data are consistent with the 70- and 150-kDa bands representing precursor and fully formed prehairpin conformations of EnvA TM. Our data are also consistent with the >150-kDa bands representing higher-order oligomers of EnvA TM and with the 100-kDa band representing the fully formed six-helix bundle. In addition to resolving fusion-relevant conformational intermediates of EnvA TM, our data are compatible with a model in which the EnvA protein is activated by its receptor (at neutral pH and a temperature greater than or equal to room temperature) to form prehairpin conformations of EnvA TM, and in which subsequent exposure to a low pH is required to stabilize the final six-helix bundle, which drives a later stage of fusion.
In vitro infection by human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 and 2 (HTLV-1 and HTLV-2) can result in syncytium formation, facilitating viral entry. Using cell lines that were susceptible to HTLV-2-mediated syncytium formation but were nonfusogenic with HTLV-1, we constructed chimeric envelopes between HTLV-1 and -2 and assayed for the ability to induce syncytia in BJAB cells and HeLa cells. We have identified a fusion domain composed of the first 64 amino acids at the amino terminus of the HTLV-2 transmembrane protein, p21, the retention of which was required for syncytium induction. Construction of replication-competent HTLV genomic clones allowed us to correlate the ability of HTLV-2 to induce syncytia with the ability to replicate in BJAB cells. Differences in the ability to induce syncytia were not due to differences in the levels of total or cell membrane-associated envelope or in the formation of multimers. Therefore, we have localized a fusion domain within the amino terminus of the transmembrane protein of HTLV-2 envelope that is necessary for syncytium induction and viral replication.
The coronavirus spike protein (S) forms the distinctive virion surface structures that are characteristic of this viral family, appearing in negatively stained electron microscopy as stems capped with spherical bulbs. These structures are essential for the initiation of infection through attachment of the virus to cellular receptors followed by fusion to host cell membranes. The S protein can also mediate the formation of syncytia in infected cells. The S protein is a type I transmembrane protein that is very large compared to other viral fusion proteins, and all except a short carboxy-terminal segment of the S molecule constitutes the ectodomain. For the prototype coronavirus mouse hepatitis virus (MHV), it has previously been established that S protein assembly into virions is specified by the carboxy-terminal segment, which comprises the transmembrane domain and the endodomain. We have genetically dissected these domains in the MHV S protein to localize the determinants of S incorporation into virions. Our results establish that assembly competence maps to the endodomain of S, which was shown to be sufficient to target a heterologous integral membrane protein for incorporation into MHV virions. In particular, mutational analysis indicated a major role for the charge-rich carboxy-terminal region of the endodomain. Additionally, we found that the adjacent cysteine-rich region of the endodomain is critical for fusion of infected cells, confirming results previously obtained with S protein expression systems.
Ten to 30% of HIV-1 infected subjects develop broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) during chronic infection. We hypothesized that immunizing rabbits with viral envelope glycoproteins (Envs) from these patients may induce bNAbs, when formulated as a trimeric protein and in the presence of an adjuvant.
Based on in vitro neutralizing activity in serum, patients with bNAbs were selected for cloning of their HIV-1 Env. Seven stable soluble trimeric gp140 proteins were generated from sequences derived from four adults and two children infected with either clade A or B HIV-1. From one of the clade A Envs both the monomeric and trimeric Env were produced for comparison. Rabbits were immunized with soluble gp120 or trimeric gp140 proteins in combination with the adjuvant dimethyl dioctadecyl ammonium/trehalose dibehenate (CAF01). Env binding in rabbit immune serum was determined using ELISAs based on gp120-IIIB protein. Neutralizing activity of IgG purified from rabbit immune sera was measured with the pseudovirus-TZMbl assay and a PBMC-based neutralization assay for selected experiments.
It was initially established that gp140 trimers induce better antibody responses over gp120 monomers and that the adjuvant CAF01 was necessary for such strong responses. Gp140 trimers, based on HIV-1 variants from patients with bNAbs, were able to elicit both gp120IIIB specific IgG and NAbs to Tier 1 viruses of different subtypes. Potency of NAbs closely correlated with titers, and an gp120-binding IgG titer above a threshold of 100,000 was predictive of neutralization capability. Finally, peptide inhibition experiments showed that a large fraction of the neutralizing IgG was directed against the gp120 V3 region.
Our results indicate that the strategy of reverse immunology based on selected Env sequences is promising when immunogens are delivered as stabilized trimers in CAF01 adjuvant and that the rabbit is a valuable model for HIV vaccine studies.
Human T-cell leukemia virus (HTLV) envelope (Env) glycoproteins induce fusion, leading to rampant syncytium formation in a broad range of cell lines. Here, we identified murine, hamster, canine, and porcine cell lines that are resistant to HTLV-1 Env-induced syncytium formation. This resistance was not due to the absence of functional receptors for HTLV Env, as these cells were susceptible to infection with HTLV Env-pseudotyped virions. As murine leukemia virus (MLV) Env and HTLV Env present close structural homologies (F. J. Kim, I. Seiliez, C. Denesvre, D. Lavillette, F. L. Cosset, and M. Sitbon, J. Biol. Chem. 275:23417-23420, 2000), and because activation of syncytium formation by MLV Env generally requires cleavage of the R peptide in the cytoplasmic domain of the Env transmembrane (TM) component, we assessed whether truncation of the cytoplasmic domain of HTLV Env would alleviate this resistance. Indeed, in all resistant cell lines, truncation of the last 8 amino acids of the HTLV Env cytoplasmic domain (HdC8) was sufficient to overcome resistance to HTLV Env-induced syncytium formation. Furthermore, HdC8-mediated cell-to-cell infection titers varied according to the target cell lines and could be significantly higher than that observed with HTLV Env on HeLa cells. These data indicate that a determinant located within the 8 carboxy-terminal cytoplasmic amino acids of TM plays a distinct role in HTLV Env-mediated cell-to-cell infection and syncytium formation.
The matrix (MA) domain of HIV-1 Gag plays key roles in membrane targeting of Gag, and envelope (Env) glycoprotein incorporation into virions. Although a trimeric MA structure has been available since 1996, evidence for functional MA trimers has been elusive. The mechanism of HIV-1 Env recruitment into virions likewise remains unclear. Here, we identify a point mutation in MA that rescues the Env incorporation defects imposed by an extensive panel of MA and Env mutations. Mapping the mutations onto the putative MA trimer reveals that the incorporation-defective mutations cluster at the tips of the trimer, around the perimeter of a putative gap in the MA lattice into which the cytoplasmic tail of gp41 could insert. By contrast, the rescue mutation is located at the trimer interface, suggesting that it may confer rescue of Env incorporation via modification of MA trimer interactions, a hypothesis consistent with additional mutational analysis. These data strongly support the existence of MA trimers in the immature Gag lattice and demonstrate that rescue of Env incorporation defects is mediated by modified interactions at the MA trimer interface. The data support the hypothesis that mutations in MA that block Env incorporation do so by imposing a steric clash with the gp41 cytoplasmic tail, rather than by disrupting a specific MA-gp41 interaction. The importance of the trimer interface in rescuing Env incorporation suggests that the trimeric arrangement of MA may be a critical factor in permitting incorporation of Env into the Gag lattice.
One of the enduring problems in HIV-1 research is the mechanism of incorporation of the viral envelope (Env) glycoprotein into viral particles. Several models have been proposed ranging from an entirely passive process to a requirement for binding of Env by the matrix (MA) domain of the Gag precursor polyprotein. It is clear that specific regions within MA and Env play important roles, as mutations in these domains can prevent Env incorporation. We have identified a point mutation in MA that rescues a broad range of Env-incorporation defective mutations, located both in MA and in Env. Our investigations into the mechanism of rescue have revealed the importance of interactions between MA monomers at a trimeric interface. Our results are consistent with previously published crystallographic models and now provide functional support for the existence of MA trimers in the immature Gag lattice. Furthermore, as the modification of trimer interactions plays a role in the rescue of Env incorporation, we propose that MA trimerization and the organization of the MA lattice may be critical factors in Env incorporation.