The HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein, gp120, binds the host cell receptor, CD4, in the initial step of HIV viral entry and infection. This process is an appealing target for the development of inhibitory drugs and neutralizing antibodies. To study gp120 binding and intracellular trafficking, we engineered a fluorescent fusion of the humanized gp120 JRFL HIV-1 variant and GFP. Gp120-sfGFP is glycosylated with human sugars, robustly expressed, and secreted from cultured human cells. Protein dynamics, quality control, and trafficking can be visualized in live cells. The fusion protein can be readily modified with different gp120 variants or fluorescent proteins. Finally, secreted gp120-sfGFP enables a sensitive and easy binding assay that can quantitatively screen potential inhibitors of gp120-CD4 binding on live cells via fluorescence imaging or laser scanning cytometry. This adaptable research tool should aid in studies of gp120 cell biology and the development of novel anti-HIV drugs.
Keywords: CD4; Diffusion; Envelope; FRAP; Fluorescent protein; HIV-1; Inhibitory antibody; Laser scanning cytometry; Neutralizing antibody; Superfolder GFP; gp120.
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