Ficolin-2 binds to HIV-1 gp120 and blocks viral infection
The V3 loop of the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env) is the major determinant for coreceptor utilization, but the structural basis for this specificity remains to be defined. By characterizing a set of naturally occurring R5 Env variants, we demonstrate that Asp324 in the conserved IIGDIR motif of the V3 loop (CTRPN(300)NNTRKSIHIGP(311)GRAFYTTGEIIGD(324)IRQAHC) C-terminal segment regulates the molecular anatomy of CCR5 utilization. Whereas gp120 subunits with Asp or Asn at position 324 were fusogenic with coreceptor chimeras containing either the N-terminal domain or the body of CCR5, substitution of charged (Glu, Lys) or small hydrophobic (Gly, Ala) residues resulted in complete loss of fusogenic activity with the N terminus and markedly reduced utilization of the body of CCR5, although their ability to use wild-type CCR5 was unchanged. This phenotypic conversion was confirmed in both gain and loss of function experiments using Env from multiple subtypes. Alignment of sequences of R5 V3 loops (n=599) from the HIV database revealed that the mutation of Asp324 in the conserved IIGDIR motif is restricted to Asn324, with proportions of 71.5% and 28%, respectively. Infection of primary CD4(+)T cells demonstrated that Env bearing Asp324 was less sensitive to RANTES, suggesting that Asp or Asn in this position may be crucial for viral fitness. The CD4-dependent gp120 binding to CCR5 was decreased when Asp324 was replaced with a charged or hydrophobic residue, but unchanged when replaced with Asn. Molecular modeling analyses predicted that Asp/Asn324 forms a critical H-bond with Asn300. These findings indicate that Asp or Asn at position 324 of the V3 stem stabilizes the conformation of V3 loop and hence influences the intensities of interaction between CD4-activated gp120 and CCR5 which results in viral entry.