CD4 binding partially locks the bridging sheet in gp120 but leaves the β2/3 strands flexible

Yongping Pan, Buyong Ma, Ruth Nussinov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The structure of the free form HIV gp120, critical for therapeutic agent development, is unavailable due to its high flexibility. Previous thermodynamic data, structural analysis and simulation results have suggested a large conformational change in the core domain upon CD4 binding. The bridging sheet, which consists of four β-strands with β20/21 nestling against the inner/outer domains and β2/3 facing outward, more exposed to the solvent, was proposed to be unfolded in the native state. In order to test this proposition and to characterize the native conformations, we performed potential mean force (PMF) molecular dynamics (MD) simulations on the CD4-bound crystal structure. We pushed the bridging sheet away from the inner and outer domain to explore the accessible conformational space for the bridging sheet. In addition, we performed conventional MD simulations on structures with the bridging sheet partially unfolded to investigate the stability of the association between the inner and outer domains. Based on the free energy profiles, we find that the whole bridging sheet is unlikely to unfold without other concurrent conformational changes. On the other hand, the partial bridging sheet, β strands 2/3, can switch its conformation from the folded to the unfolded state. Furthermore, relaxation of conformation with partially unfolded bridging sheet through MD simulations leads to a conformation with β strands 20/21 quickly re-anchoring against the inner and outer domains. Such a conformation, although lacking some of the hydrophobic interactions present in the CD4-bound structure, displayed high stability as further indicated by other restrained MD simulations. The relevance of this conformation to the free form structure and the pathway for conformational change from the free form to the CD4-bound structure is discussed in detail in light of the available unliganded SIV gp120 crystal structure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)514-527
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 15 Jul 2005


  • Bridging sheet
  • HIV-1
  • Molecular dynamics
  • Potential mean force
  • gp120


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