BACKGROUND: The net charge of the hypervariable V3 loop on the HIV-1 envelope gp120 outer domain plays a key role in modulating viral phenotype. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying the modulation remain poorly understood.<br /><br />METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: By combining computational and experimental approaches, we examined how V3 net charge could influence the phenotype of the gp120 interaction surface. Molecular dynamics simulations of the identical gp120 outer domain, carrying a V3 loop with net charge of +3 or +7, showed that the V3 change alone could induce global changes in fluctuation and conformation of the loops involved in binding to CD4, coreceptor and antibodies. A neutralization study using the V3 recombinant HIV-1 infectious clones showed that the virus carrying the gp120 with +3 V3, but not with +7 V3, was resistant to neutralization by anti-CD4 binding site monoclonal antibodies. An information entropy study shows that otherwise variable surface of the gp120 outer domain, such as V3 and a region around the CD4 binding loop, are less heterogeneous in the gp120 subpopulation with +3 V3.<br /><br />CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: These results suggest that the HIV-1 gp120 V3 loop acts as an electrostatic modulator that influences the global structure and diversity of the interaction surface of the gp120 outer domain. Our findings will provide a novel structural basis to understand how HIV-1 adjusts relative replication fitness by V3 mutations.
Yokoyama, M., Naganawa, S., Yoshimura, K., Matsushita, S., & Sato, H. (2012). Structural dynamics of HIV-1 envelope GP120 outer domain with V3 loop. PLoS ONE, 7(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0037530