The gp41 protein of the human (HIV) and simian (SIV) immunodeficiency viruses is part of the envelope glycoprotein complex gp41/gp120 which plays an essential role in viral infection. We present a multidimensional NMR study on the trimeric 44 kDa soluble ectodomain of SIV gp41 (e-gp41), comprising residues 27 to 149. Despite the large molecular weight and very limited spectral dispersion, complete backbone 1H, 13C, 13CO and 15N assignments have been made using a combination of triple resonance experiments on uniformly 13C/15N and 2H/13C/15N-labeled samples. The secondary structure of SIV e-gp41, derived on the basis of 13C chemical shifts, NH exchange rates, medium range nuclear Overhauser enhancements (NOE), and 3JHNalpha coupling constants, consists of a 49 residue helix at the N terminus (residues 29 to 77) and a 40 residue helix at the C terminus (residues 108 to 147), connected by a 30 residue loop which does not display any of the characteristics of regular secondary structure. The cross-peak intensities of the loop region in scalar correlation experiments suggests that it is more mobile than the core helical regions. The presence, however, of numerous long range NOEs, both intra and inter-subunit, within the loop indicates that it adopts a well-defined structure in which the loops from the three subunits interact with each other. Based on a number of long range intra and inter-subunit NOEs, a topological model is presented for the symmetric SIV e-gp41 trimer in which the N-terminal helices are packed within the protein interior in a parallel trimeric coiled-coil arrangement, while the C-terminal helices are located on the protein exterior, oriented antiparallel to the N-terminal helices.
Copyright 1997 Academic Press Limited.