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The high affinity binding site for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) envelope glycoprotein gp120 resides within the amino-terminal domain (D1) of CD4. Mutational and antibody epitope analyses have implicated the region encompassing residues 40-60 in D1 as the primary binding site for gp120. Outside of this region, a single residue substitution at position 87 abrogates syncytium formation without affecting gp120 binding. We describe two groups of CD4 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) which recognize distinct epitopes associated with these regions in D1. These mAbs distinguish between the gp120 binding event and virus infection and virus-induced cell fusion. One cluster of mAbs, which bind at or near the high affinity gp120 binding site, blocked gp120 binding to CD4 and, as expected, also blocked HIV infection of CD4+ cells and virus-induced syncytium formation. A second cluster of mAbs, which recognize the CDR-3 like loop, did not block gp120 binding as demonstrated by their ability to form ternary complexes with CD4 and gp120. Yet, these mAbs strongly inhibited HIV infection of CD4+ cells and HIV-envelope/CD4-mediated syncytium formation. The structure of D1 has recently been solved at atomic resolution and in its general features resembles IgVk regions as predicted from sequence homology and mAb epitopes. In the D1 structure, the regions recognized by these two groups of antibodies correspond to the C'C" (Ig CDR2) and FG (Ig CDR3) hairpin loops, respectively, which are solvent-exposed beta turns protruding in two different directions on a face of D1 distal to the D2 domain. This face is straddled by the longer BC (Ig CDR1) loop which bisects the plain formed by C'C'' and FG. This structure is consistent with C'C'' and FG forming two distinct epitope clusters within D1. We conclude that the initial interaction between gp120 and CD4 is not sufficient for HIV infection and syncytium formation and that CD4 plays a critical role in the subsequent virus-cell and cell-cell membrane fusion events. We propose that the initial binding of CD4 to gp120 induces conformational changes in gp120 leading to subsequent interactions of the FG loop with other regions in gp120 or with the fusogenic gp41 potion of the envelope gp160 glycoprotein.


Journal article


J Biol Chem

Publication Date





5942 - 5948


Antibodies, Monoclonal, CD4 Antigens, Epitopes, Giant Cells, HIV Envelope Protein gp120, HIV Infections, Humans, Models, Molecular, Mutation, Precipitin Tests, Protein Conformation, Substrate Specificity, Tumor Cells, Cultured