Biochimica et biophysica acta

Fusion-competent state induced by a C-terminal HIV-1 fusion peptide in cholesterol-rich membranes.

PMID 25617671


The replicative cycle of the human immunodeficiency virus type-1 begins after fusion of the viral and target-cell membranes. The envelope glycoprotein gp41 transmembrane subunit contains conserved hydrophobic domains that engage and perturb the merging lipid bilayers. In this work, we have characterized the fusion-committed state generated in vesicles by CpreTM, a synthetic peptide derived from the sequence connecting the membrane-proximal external region (MPER) and the transmembrane domain (TMD) of gp41. Pre-loading cholesterol-rich vesicles with CpreTM rendered them competent for subsequent lipid-mixing with fluorescently-labeled target vesicles. Highlighting the physiological relevance of the lasting fusion-competent state, the broadly neutralizing antibody 4E10 bound to the CpreTM-primed vesicles and inhibited lipid-mixing. Heterotypic fusion assays disclosed dependence on the lipid composition of the vesicles that acted either as virus or cell membrane surrogates. Lipid-mixing exhibited above all a critical dependence on the cholesterol content in those experiments. We infer that the fusion-competent state described herein resembles bona-fide perturbations generated by the pre-hairpin MPER-TMD connection within the viral membrane.