HIV X-ray crystallography researchers hope that they can harness the proper weaponry to fight HIV by actually seeing how their enemy infects cells. This paper revealed a critical stage of HIV infection: the viral surface glycoprotein gp120 binding the CD4 receptor on a vulnerable T cell. By discovering aspects of the mechanism by which the viral and cell membranes fuse, crystallographers hoped to get clues for potential drug and vaccine targets. Structure-based drug design has already been helpful in the development of HIV protease inhibitors, crucial AIDS drugs introduced in the mid-1990s. According to senior author Wayne Hendrickson, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and a professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at Columbia University, although the structure determined by his team has not yet led to drug or vaccine development, follow-up work continues to look promising.

Spearheaded by Columbia associate research scientist and lead author Peter Kwong, the...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?