HIV-1 cell entry is mediated by sequential interactions of the envelope protein gp120 with the receptor CD4 and a coreceptor, usually CCR5 or CXCR4, depending on the individual virion. Considerable efforts on exploiting the HIV coreceptors as drug targets have led to the new class of coreceptor antagonists. While these antiretroviral drugs aim at preventing virus/coreceptor interaction by binding to host proteins, neutralizing antibodies directed against the coreceptor- binding sites on gp120 have attracted attention as possible vaccine candidates. However, both approaches are complicated by the multiple protective mechanisms of gp120 which allow for rapid escape from selective pressures exerted by drugs or antibodies. Thus, advances in rational drug and vaccine design rely heavily on improved insights into the relation between genotype and phenotype, the evolution of coreceptor usage, and, ultimately the structural biology of coreceptor usage and inhibition. The third variable (V3) loop of gp120, crucially involved in all these aspects, will be a major focus of this review.
Keywords: hiv, gp, v loop, coreceptor, ccr, cxcr, structure-based drug design
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