Maturation of HIV envelope glycoprotein precursors by cellular endoproteases

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2000 Nov 10;1469(3):121-32. doi: 10.1016/s0304-4157(00)00014-9.


The entry of enveloped viruses into its host cells is a crucial step for the propagation of viral infection. The envelope glycoprotein complex controls viral tropism and promotes the membrane fusion process. The surface glycoproteins of enveloped viruses are synthesized as inactive precursors and sorted through the constitutive secretory pathway of the infected cells. To be infectious, most of the viruses require viral envelope glycoprotein maturation by host cell endoproteases. In spite of the strong variability of primary sequences observed within different viral envelope glycoproteins, the endoproteolytical cleavage occurs mainly in a highly conserved domain at the carboxy terminus of the basic consensus sequence (Arg-X-Lys/Arg-Arg downward arrow). The same consensus sequence is recognized by the kexin/subtilisin-like serine proteinases (so called convertases) in many cellular substrates such as prohormones, proprotein of receptors, plasma proteins, growth factors and bacterial toxins. Therefore, several groups of investigators have evaluated the implication of convertases in viral envelope glycoprotein cleavage. Using the vaccinia virus overexpression system, furin was first shown to mediate the proteolytic maturation of both human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) and influenza virus envelope glycoproteins. In vitro studies demonstrated that purified convertases directly and specifically cleave viral envelope glycoproteins. Although these studies suggested the participation of several enzymes belonging to the convertases family, recent data suggest that other protease families may also participate in the HIV envelope glycoprotein processing. Their role in the physiological maturation process is still hypothetical and the molecular mechanism of the cleavage is not well documented. Crystallization of the hemagglutinin precursor (HA0) of influenza virus allowed further understanding of the molecular interaction between viral precursors and the cellular endoproteases. Furthermore, relationships between differential pathogenicity of influenza strains and their susceptibility to cleavage are molecularly funded. Here we review the most recent data and recent insights demonstrating the crucial role played by this activation step in virus infectivity. We discuss the cellular endoproteases that are implicated in HIV gp160 endoproteolytical maturation into gp120 and gp41.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • HIV Envelope Protein gp160 / chemistry
  • HIV Envelope Protein gp160 / metabolism
  • HIV-1*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / biosynthesis
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Orthomyxoviridae
  • Protein Precursors / metabolism*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • Serine Endopeptidases / chemistry
  • Serine Endopeptidases / metabolism*
  • Serine Proteinase Inhibitors / metabolism
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / metabolism*
  • Virulence


  • HIV Envelope Protein gp160
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Protein Precursors
  • Serine Proteinase Inhibitors
  • Viral Envelope Proteins
  • Serine Endopeptidases