Infection of target host cells by the human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) is a multi-step process involving a series of conformational changes in the viral gp120 and gp41 proteins. Gp120 binding to the main cell receptor, CD4, on the surface of cells expressing this molecule, and interaction with the cell chemokine receptors CCR5 and CXCR4, are among the key events for HIV-1 infection. These steps are crucial for the virus and offer potential therapeutic targets. For this reason, understanding the structure and the physicochemical characteristics of the gp120 in relation to these interactions has drawn much attention. This review article focuses on the biologically important V3 region of the gp120 and summarizes the functional role, the sequence variation and the conformational features of V3 peptides, which are important for co-receptor selectivity, specificity and interaction. Synthetic V3 peptides have been extensively studied by NMR spectroscopy and Xray crystallography, in solution or in solid state, in their free or bound form, and valuable information was generated with the aim to be exploited in the design of new, effective inhibitors of HIV-1 infection. The features of the potential gp120 interacting sites on the two chemokine co-receptors, CCR5 and CXCR4, are also discussed, and co-receptor blocking molecules under clinical trial are also reported.