HIV Replication Animation

Entry to the cell

HIV enters macrophages and CD4+ T cells by the adsorption of glycoproteins on its surface to receptors on the target cell followed by fusion of the viral envelope with the cell membrane and the release of the HIV capsid into the cell.
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Entry to the cell begins through interaction of the trimeric envelope complex (gp160 spike, discussed above) and both CD4 and a chemokine receptor (generally either CCR5 or CXCR4, but others are known to interact) on the cell surface. The gp160 spike contains binding domains for both CD4 and chemokine receptors. The first step in fusion involves the high-affinity attachment of the CD4 binding domains of gp120 to CD4. Once gp120 is bound with the CD4 protein, the envelope complex undergoes a structural change, exposing the chemokine binding domains of gp120 and allowing them to interact with the target chemokine receptor. This allows for a more stable two-pronged attachment, which allows the N-terminal fusion peptide gp41 to penetrate the cell membrane.Repeat sequences in gp41, HR1 and HR2 then interact, causing the collapse of the extracellular portion of gp41 into a hairpin. This loop structure brings the virus and cell membranes close together, allowing fusion of the membranes and subsequent entry of the viral capsid.
Once HIV has bound to the target cell, the HIV RNA and various enzymes, including reverse transcriptase, integrase, ribonuclease and protease, are injected into the cell. During the microtubule based transport to the nucleus, the viral single strand RNA genome is transcribed into double strand DNA, which is then integrated into a host chromosome.
HIV can infect dendritic cells (DCs) by this CD4-CCR5 route, but another route using mannose-specific C-type lectin receptors such as DC-SIGN can also be used. DCs are one of the first cells encountered by the virus during sexual transmission. They are currently thought to play an important role by transmitting HIV to T cells once the virus has been captured in the mucosa by DCs.
Replication and transcription
Once the viral capsid enters the cell, an enzyme called reverse transcriptase liberates the single-stranded (+)RNA from the attached viral proteins and copies it into a complementary DNA.This process of reverse transcription is extremely error-prone and it is during this step that mutations may occur. Such mutations may cause drug resistance. The reverse transcriptase then makes a complementary DNA strand to form a double-stranded viral DNA intermediate (vDNA). This vDNA is then transported into the cell nucleus. The integration of the viral DNA into the host cell's genome is carried out by another viral enzyme called integrase.
This integrated viral DNA may then lie dormant, in the latent stage of HIV infection. To actively produce the virus, certain cellular transcription factors need to be present, the most important of which is NF-κB (NF kappa B), which is upregulated when T cells become activated. This means that those cells most likely to be killed by HIV are those currently fighting infection.
Rev-mediated HIV mRNA transport. Rev (red) binds the Rev response element (RRE, blue) to mediate export of unspliced and singly spliced mRNA from the nucleus to the cytoplasm.
In this replication process, the integrated provirus is copied to mRNA which is then spliced into smaller pieces. These small pieces produce the regulatory proteins Tat (which encourages new virus production) and Rev. As Rev accumulates it gradually starts to inhibit mRNA splicing. At this stage, the structural proteins Gag and Env are produced from the full-length mRNA. The full-length RNA is actually the virus genome; it binds to the Gag protein and is packaged into new virus particles.
HIV-1 and HIV-2 appear to package their RNA differently; HIV-1 will bind to any appropriate RNA whereas HIV-2 will preferentially bind to the mRNA which was used to create the Gag protein itself. This may mean that HIV-1 is better able to mutate (HIV-1 infection progresses to AIDS faster than HIV-2 infection and is responsible for the majority of global infections).
Assembly and release
The final step of the viral cycle, assembly of new HIV-1 virons, begins at the plasma membrane of the host cell. The Env polyprotein (gp160) goes through the endoplasmic reticulum and is transported to the Golgi complex where it is cleaved by protease and processed into the two HIV envelope glycoproteins gp41 and gp120. These are transported to the plasma membrane of the host cell where gp41 anchors the gp120 to the membrane of the infected cell. The Gag (p55) and Gag-Pol (p160) polyproteins also associate with the inner surface of the plasma membrane along with the HIV genomic RNA as the forming virion begins to bud from the host cell. Maturation either occurs in the forming bud or in the immature virion after it buds from the host cell. During maturation, HIV proteases cleave the polyproteins into individual functional HIV proteins and enzymes. The various structural components then assemble to produce a mature HIV virion. This cleavage step can be inhibited by protease inhibitors. The mature virus is then able to infect another cell.

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