Tilted, Uninterrupted, Monomeric HIV-1 gp41 Transmembrane Helix from Residual Dipolar Couplings

J Am Chem Soc. 2018 Jan 10;140(1):34-37. doi: 10.1021/jacs.7b10245. Epub 2017 Dec 27.


Cryo-electron microscopy and X-ray crystallography have shown that the pre- and postfusion states of the HIV-1 gp41 viral coat protein, although very different from one another, each adopt C3 symmetric structures. A stable homotrimeric structure for the transmembrane domain (TM) also was modeled and supported by experimental data. For a C3 symmetric structure, alignment in an anisotropic medium must be axially symmetric, with the unique axis of the alignment tensor coinciding with the C3 axis. However, NMR residual dipolar couplings (RDCs) measured under three different alignment conditions were found to be incompatible with C3 symmetry. Subsequent measurements by paramagnetic relaxation enhancement, analytical ultracentrifugation, and DEER EPR, indicate that the transmembrane domain is monomeric. 15N NMR relaxation data and RDCs show that TM is highly ordered and uninterrupted for a total length of 32 residues, extending well into the membrane proximal external region.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Cryoelectron Microscopy
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • HIV Envelope Protein gp41 / chemistry*


  • HIV Envelope Protein gp41