Current topics in microbiology and immunology 2017 07 09() doi 10.1007/82_2017_35
The surface envelope protein of any virus is major determinant of the host cell that is infected and as a result a major determinant of viral pathogenesis. Retroviruses have a single surface protein named Env. It is a trimer of heterodimers and is responsible for binding to the host cell receptor and mediating fusion between the viral and host membranes. In this review we will discuss the history of the discovery of the avian leukosis virus (ALV) and human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) Env proteins and their receptor specificity, comparing the many differences but having some similarities. Much of the progress in these fields has relied on viral genetics and genetic polymorphisms in the host population. A special feature of HIV-1 is that its persistent infection in its human host, to the point of depleting its favorite target cells, allows the virus to evolve new entry phenotypes to expand its host range into several new cell types. This variety of entry phenotypes has led to confusion in the field leading to the major form of entry phenotype of HIV-1 being overlooked until recently. Thus an important part of this story is the description and naming of the most abundant entry form of the virus: R5 T cell-tropic HIV-1.