Researchers developed a technology that makes visible the movements of HIV virus

Oct 11, 2014 15:27 IST

A team of researchers developed a technology that makes visible the dance or movements of HIV proteins on the virus' surface. The development may contribute to study how HIV virus infects human immune cells and devise an approach to prevent HIV infection.

The technology was developed by a team of researchers led by Dr. Scott Blanchard of Weill Cornell Medical College of New York, US. The study related to this was published in the Journal Nature in the first week of October 2014.

Development of the Technology

To prevent the HIV infection, one need to prevent the entry of the HIV virus into the immune cells and this could only be possible when one can track the movement of HIV virus on real time basis.

To do this Blanchard and his team adapted an imaging technique that uses fluorescence to measure distance on molecular scale, single-molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer (smFRET) imaging, to study viral particles.

Then his group developed fluorescent molecules (fluorophores), which they dubbed beacons, and inserted them into the virus's outer covering, known as the envelope.

With two of these special beacons in place, they demonstrated that smFRET imaging technology can be used to visualize how the molecules move over time, when the virus proteins change conformation.

Equipped with smFRET imaging technology, the team studied the movement of proteins on the surface of the HIV virus called envelope proteins. Envelope proteins are key to the virus's ability to infect human immune cells carrying CD4 receptor proteins which help HIV bind to a cell.

The envelope protein consists of three gp120 and gp41 proteins positioned close together, and referred to as trimers that open up like a flower in the presence of CD4, exposing the gp41 subunit that is essential for subsequent aspects of the mechanism that causes infection.

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