Stabilizing the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein state 2A conformation

Dani Vézina, Shang Yu Gong, William D. Tolbert, Shilei Ding, Dung Nguyen, Jonathan Richard, Gabrielle Gendron-Lepage, Bruno Melillo, Amos B. Smith, Marzena Pazgier, Andrés Finzi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env) trimer [(gp120/gp41)3] is a metastable complex expressed at the surface of viral particles and infected cells that samples different conformations. Before engaging CD4, Env adopts an antibody-resistant “closed” conformation (State 1). CD4 binding triggers an intermediate conformation (State 2) and then a more “open” conformation (State 3) that can be recognized by nonneutralizing antibodies (nnAbs) such as those that recognize the coreceptor binding site (CoRBS). Binding of antibodies to the CoRBS permits another family of nnAbs, the anti-cluster A family of Abs which target the gp120 inner domain, to bind and stabilize an asymmetric conformation (State 2A). Cells expressing Env in this conformation are susceptible to antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC). This conformation can be stabilized by small-molecule CD4 mimetics (CD4mc) or soluble CD4 (sCD4) in combination with anti-CoRBS Ab and anti-cluster A antibodies. The precise stoichiometry of each component that permits this sequential opening of Env remains unknown. Here, we used a cell-based enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (CBE) to evaluate each component individually. In this assay, we used a “trimer mixing” approach by combining wild-type (wt) subunits with subunits impaired for CD4 or CoRBS Ab binding. This enabled us to show that State 2A requires all three gp120 subunits to be bound by sCD4/CD4mc and anti-CoRBS Abs. Two of these subunits can then bind anti-cluster A Abs. Altogether, our data suggest how this antibody-vulnerable Env conformation is stabilized. IMPORTANCE Stabilization of HIV-1 Env State 2A has been shown to sensitize infected cells to ADCC. State 2A can be stabilized by a “cocktail” composed of CD4mc, anti-CoRBS, and anti-cluster A Abs. We present evidence that optimal State 2A stabilization requires all three gp120 subunits to be bound by both CD4mc and anti-CoRBS Abs. Our study provides valuable information on how to stabilize this ADCC-vulnerable conformation. Strategies aimed at stabilizing State 2A might have therapeutic utility.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01620-20
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • CD4-induced antibodies
  • Cluster A
  • Coreceptor binding site
  • Env conformation
  • Envelope glycoproteins
  • Gp120
  • HIV-1
  • Nonneutralizing antibodies
  • Small CD4 mimetics
  • Soluble CD4
  • State 2A


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