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Elusive HIV shape change revealed; Key clue to how virus infects cells

form of gp120, they obtained the first high-resolution three-dimensional images of the protein in its unbound form. They surmounted considerable technical challenges, including difficulty in getting gp120 to form good crystals.

"Without very well-ordered crystals you get a very blurry picture," explains Harrison. "It took a very long time, and lots of computational work, to get that picture to sharpen up enough to get an answer."

One of the lab's first steps will be to determine which shape of gp120 ?bound to the CD4 receptor, or unbound ?is recognized by a person's antibodies. gp120's shape change is an important "escape mechanism" for HIV, allowing the virus to bind to and enter a cell before the immune system can "see" it, notes Harrison.

"We can now compare the bound and unbound forms and try to understand whether there are any immunologic properties that differ and that might provide a route to new vaccine or drug strategies," Harrison says.


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Source:Children's Hospital Boston


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