Nature 445, 732-737 (15 February 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature05580; Received 2 November 2006; Accepted 8 January 2007

Structural definition of a conserved neutralization epitope on HIV-1 gp120

Tongqing Zhou1, Ling Xu1, Barna Dey1, Ann J. Hessell3, Donald Van Ryk2, Shi-Hua Xiang4, Xinzhen Yang4, Mei-Yun Zhang5, Michael B. Zwick3, James Arthos2, Dennis R. Burton3, Dimiter S. Dimitrov5, Joseph Sodroski4, Richard Wyatt1, Gary J. Nabel1 & Peter D. Kwong1

  1. Vaccine Research Center, and,
  2. Laboratory of Immunoregulation, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA
  3. Departments of Immunology and Molecular Biology, Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA
  4. Department of Cancer Immunology and AIDS, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA
  5. Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, Frederick, Maryland 21702, USA

Correspondence to: Peter D. Kwong1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to P.D.K. (Email:


The remarkable diversity, glycosylation and conformational flexibility of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) envelope (Env), including substantial rearrangement of the gp120 glycoprotein upon binding the CD4 receptor, allow it to evade antibody-mediated neutralization. Despite this complexity, the HIV-1 Env must retain conserved determinants that mediate CD4 binding. To evaluate how these determinants might provide opportunities for antibody recognition, we created variants of gp120 stabilized in the CD4-bound state, assessed binding of CD4 and of receptor-binding-site antibodies, and determined the structure at 2.3 Å resolution of the broadly neutralizing antibody b12 in complex with gp120. b12 binds to a conformationally invariant surface that overlaps a distinct subset of the CD4-binding site. This surface is involved in the metastable attachment of CD4, before the gp120 rearrangement required for stable engagement. A site of vulnerability, related to a functional requirement for efficient association with CD4, can therefore be targeted by antibody to neutralize HIV-1.


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