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Structure of the HIV Protein Shell Reveals Clues for New Therapies

New research provides a close-up look at the cone-shaped shell that is the hallmark of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), revealing how it is held together—and possible ways to break it apart.

Previously, scientists had known that the genetic material within HIV is enclosed within a cone-shaped shell called the capsid, which is formed by a honeycomb arrangement of about 250 hexagonal protein building blocks. For HIV to infect human cells, the virus binds to cell surface receptors, and then the capsid is delivered into the cytoplasm of the cell.

Now, in an advance, online issue of the journal Cell published on June 11, 2009, Professor Mark Yeager and colleagues describethe first high-resolution molecular structure of the hexagonal protein building block, called CA, that makes up the HIV capsid. This detailed description may help scientists identify new ways to block HIV infection.

 
 

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