Structure-based, targeted deglycosylation of HIV-1 gp120 and effects on neutralization sensitivity and antibody recognition

Virology. 2003 Sep 1;313(2):387-400. doi: 10.1016/s0042-6822(03)00294-0.


The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) exterior envelope glycoprotein, gp120, mediates receptor binding and is the major target for neutralizing antibodies. Primary HIV-1 isolates are characteristically more resistant to broadly neutralizing antibodies, although the structural basis for this resistance remains obscure. Most broadly neutralizing antibodies are directed against functionally conserved gp120 regions involved in binding to either the primary virus receptor, CD4, or the viral coreceptor molecules that normally function as chemokine receptors. These antibodies are known as CD4 binding site (CD4BS) and CD4-induced (CD4i) antibodies, respectively. Inspection of the gp120 crystal structure reveals that although the receptor-binding regions lack glycosylation, sugar moieties lie proximal to both receptor-binding sites on gp120 and thus in proximity to both the CD4BS and the CD4i epitopes. In this study, guided by the X-ray crystal structure of gp120, we deleted four N-linked glycosylation sites that flank the receptor-binding regions. We examined the effects of selected changes on the sensitivity of two prototypic HIV-1 primary isolates to neutralization by antibodies. Surprisingly, removal of a single N-linked glycosylation site at the base of the gp120 third variable region (V3 loop) increased the sensitivity of the primary viruses to neutralization by CD4BS antibodies. Envelope glycoprotein oligomers on the cell surface derived from the V3 glycan-deficient virus were better recognized by a CD4BS antibody and a V3 loop antibody than were the wild-type glycoproteins. Absence of all four glycosylation sites rendered a primary isolate sensitive to CD4i antibody-mediated neutralization. Thus, carbohydrates that flank receptor-binding regions on gp120 protect primary HIV-1 isolates from antibody-mediated neutralization.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • CD4 Antigens / immunology
  • Gene Deletion
  • Glycosylation
  • HIV Antibodies / immunology*
  • HIV Envelope Protein gp120 / chemistry
  • HIV Envelope Protein gp120 / genetics
  • HIV Envelope Protein gp120 / immunology*
  • HIV-1 / chemistry
  • HIV-1 / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin Variable Region
  • Models, Molecular
  • Neutralization Tests
  • Polysaccharides / analysis


  • CD4 Antigens
  • HIV Antibodies
  • HIV Envelope Protein gp120
  • Immunoglobulin Variable Region
  • Polysaccharides