Oligomeric structure of gp41, the transmembrane protein of human immunodeficiency virus type 1

A. Pinter, W. J. Honnen, S. A. Tilley, C. Bona, H. Zaghouani, M. K. Gorny, S. Zolla-Pazner

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273 Scopus citations


We characterized the structural forms of the human immunodeficiency virus env-encoded proteins with a panel of monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies. Western blot (immunoblot) assays with antibodies specific for gp41 invariably recognized a major component of 160 kilodaltons and a less intense component of 120 kilodaltons in viral lysates. We demonstrated that these species are noncovalently associated tetramers and trimers of gp41 which represent the native form of this protein in virions. These complexes were stable when boiled in the presence of low concentrations of sodium dodecyl sulfate but were dissociated to gp41 monomers at high sodium dodecyl sulfate concentrations. Moreover, two human monoclonal antibodies preferentially recognized the oligomeric complexes over monomeric gp41 in Western blots, indicating the presence of epitopes recognized by the human immune system on the gp41 multimers which are not efficently expressed by the dissociated monomers. The demonstration of the existence of multimeric env complexes and the enhanced and altered antigenicity of such multimers may be relevgant to the design of subunit and recombinant human immunodeficiency virus env vaccines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2674-2679
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes


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