Most broadly neutralizing antibodies and many entry inhibitors target the pretriggered (state 1) conformation of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) envelope glycoprotein (Env). Here we examine two previously reported Env mutants designed to be stabilized in this conformation by the introduction of artificial disulfide bonds: A501C/T605C (called SOS) and I201C/A433C (called DS). SOS Env supported virus entry and cell-cell fusion only after exposure to a reducing agent, dithiothreitol (DTT). Deletion of the Env cytoplasmic tail improved the efficiency with which the SOS Env supported virus infection in a reducing environment. The antigenicity of the SOS Env was similar to that of the unmodified Env, except for greater sensitivity to some state 1-preferring ligands. In contrast, viruses with the DS Env were not infectious, even after DTT treatment. The proteolytic maturation of the DS Env on both cell surfaces and virions was severely compromised compared with that of the unmodified Env. The DS Env exhibited detectable cell-fusing activity when DTT was present. However, the profiles of cell-surface Env recognition and cell-cell fusion inhibition by antibodies differed for the DS Env and the unmodified Env. Thus, the DS Env appears to be stabilized in an off-pathway conformation that is nonfunctional on the virus. The SOS change exerted more subtle, context-dependent effects on Env conformation and function.IMPORTANCE The human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) envelope proteins (Envs) bind receptors on the host cell and change shape to allow the virus to enter the cell. Most virus-inhibiting antibodies and drugs recognize a particular shape of Env called state 1. Disulfide bonds formed by cysteine residues have been introduced into soluble forms of the flexible envelope proteins in an attempt to lock them into state 1 for use in vaccines and as research tools. We evaluated the effect of these cysteine substitutions on the ability of the membrane Env to support virus entry and on susceptibility to inhibition by antibodies and small molecules. We found that the conformation of the envelope proteins with the cysteine substitutions differed from that of the unmodified membrane envelope proteins. Awareness of these effects can assist efforts to create stable HIV-1 Env complexes that more closely resemble the state 1 conformation.
Keywords: Env; HIV-1; antibody; inhibitor; mutant; retrovirus; structure.
Copyright © 2019 American Society for Microbiology.