Molecular mechanisms of HIV entry

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2012;726:223-42. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4614-0980-9_10.


Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) entry is a complex and intricate process that facilitates delivery of the viral genome to the host cell. The only viral surface protein, Envelope (Env), is composed of a trimer of gp120 and gp41 heterodimers. It is essentially a fusion machine cloaked in a shroud of carbohydrate structures and variable loops of amino acids that enable it to evade the humoral immune response. For entry to occur gp120 sequentially engages the host protein CD4 and then one of two chemokine coreceptors, either CCR5 or CXCR4. CD4 binding facilitates exposure and formation of the coreceptor-binding site, and coreceptor binding then triggers the membrane fusion machinery in the gp41 subunit. Our understanding of HIV entry has led to the development of successful small molecule inhibitors for the clinical treatment of HIV infection as well as insights into viral tropism and pathogenesis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • CD4 Antigens / metabolism
  • HIV / metabolism*
  • HIV Infections / virology
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Conformation
  • Receptors, CCR5 / chemistry
  • Receptors, CCR5 / metabolism
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / chemistry
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / metabolism
  • Virus Internalization*
  • env Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus / chemistry
  • env Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus / genetics
  • env Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus / metabolism


  • CD4 Antigens
  • Receptors, CCR5
  • Receptors, CXCR4
  • env Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus