Optimized protocol for detection of native, full-length HIV-1 envelope on the surface of transfected cells

J. B. Altman, X. Liu, V. Itri, S. Zolla-Pazner, R. L.R. Powell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Aims: Designing therapeutics against the HIV envelope glycoprotein (Env) is only as accurate as the structure of the Env they are targeting. Conserving the structure of the Env trimer is crucial for proper experimental assessment of antibody binding and neutralization. However, Env is notably difficult to express by transfection of a recombinant Env plasmid. To increase surface expression, researchers commonly utilize c-tail mutants of the gp41 transmembrane glycoprotein of HIV-1, but mutations and deletions in this region can impact the overall conformation and stability of the Env trimer. Multiple studies have shown that while tail mutants have higher Env surface expression, they are easier to neutralize and have altered trimer conformations compared with wild-type Env found in vivo on infected cells. To assess and characterize native cell surface Env structures, we sought a protocol that could reliably detect wild-type Env surface expression by flow cytometry. Methods and results: By avoiding fetal bovine serum–based buffers, significantly increasing the amounts of transfected plasmid and Env-specific antibody and by selecting a bright, biotin + streptavidin-PE detection system, we were able to increase the surface expression of transfected Env protein. Conclusion: This protocol will allow for more precise assessment of antibody binding, epitope exposure, and Env structure, all of which will contribute to designing more effective vaccines and immunotherapeutics.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere74
JournalHealth Science Reports
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2018


  • Env
  • HIV
  • expression
  • transfection


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