The Structural Biology of HIV
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is composed of two strands of RNA (yellow), 15 types of viral proteins, and a few proteins (purple) from the last host cell it infected, all surrounded by a lipid bilayer membrane. Together, the molecules allow the virus to infect cells of the immune system and force them to build new copies of the virus. Each molecule in HIV plays a role in this process, from the first steps of viral attachment to the final process of budding.
25 years of research on the structural biology of HIV have revealed the atomic details of these proteins. These structures are all publicly available in the Protein Data Bank (PDB) archive. Using these data, researchers have designed new treatments for HIV infection, including effective drug regimens that halt the growth of the virus. The structures also provide new hope for development of a vaccine.
To learn more about the function of each of the viral proteins depicted, check out this interactive Flash activity.
The science behind the painting is described in: BaMBEd 40(5): 291-296.
Caption: courtesy of the RCSB Protein Data Bank.
Image Credit: David S. Goodsell at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), La Jolla, California, USA.