HIV Infects Host Cells Using A Molecular Entry Claw

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Researchers visualize an "entry claw," a unique structure formed between the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS and the cell it infects.

The findings are in the May 4, 2007, issue of PLoS Pathogens.

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"Visualizing the molecular mechanisms by which HIV and related viruses enter their host cells can potentially lead to the identification of novel drugs," said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D.

Retroviruses such as HIV establish contact and enter their target cells via an interaction between proteins on the surface of the virus (called spikes) and specific host cell membrane receptors. Previous studies have suggested that several spikes and several cell receptors are involved in every virus infection event. The findings of the NCI research team, led by Sriram Subramaniam, Ph.D., Laboratory of Cell Biology at NCI's Center for Cancer Research, demonstrate that this is true, but in a surprising way.

"This elegant research not only gives us insights into how HIV and related viruses interact with proteins on the surface of cells and then enter the host cells to integrate their DNA, it also gives us important clues as to how to design improved anti-HIV therapy," said NCI Director John E. Niederhuber, M.D. "Electron tomography and other new tools for imaging at the single-cell or subcellular level also have the potential to help us actually see the subcellular effects of many different diseases

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