Scientists have discovered a new strategy to inhibit HIV entry into host cells, as published online this week in Nature Chemical Biology.
HIV normally enters cells when gp120, a protein on the surface of HIV, binds to receptors on the host cell. In this process, gp120 first binds to one receptor ― CD4 ― which causes the structure of the protein to change so that it can bind to a second receptor, such as CCR5 or heparan sulfate.
Hugues Lortat-Jacob and colleagues have now made a molecule that contains a sequence of amino acids to mimic CD4 and a sequence of carbohydrates to mimic heparan sulfate to bind to both sites on gp120. This new strategy results in very effective inhibition of HIV infection in cellular assays, and so may have implications for further antiviral efforts.