REVELATION: The glycoprotein gp120 binds to the CD4 receptor on the T cell, causing the viral molecule to contort in a way that enables it to bind to the nearby chemokine receptor, too. This dual binding of HIV to two co-receptors triggers fusion of the viral and T cell membranes. Infection begins.
X-ray crystallography has played a pivotal role in life science research, from providing data crucial to deciphering the DNA double helix, to revealing the structure of HIV protease. Now, the technology has glimpsed the complex choreography that precedes HIV infection: the viral surface glycoprotein gp120 binding the CD4 receptor on a vulnerable T cell. And the dance is more complex than immunologists had thought.

"The virus uses a complicated set of mechanisms to target the cell and trigger a reaction to fuse the viral and cell membranes. The crystal structure doesn't completely reveal the mechanism of the conformational...

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