A better understanding of HIV viral protein structure could result in better HIV therapy, feel researchers who are working on this collaborative project at UK's National Physical Laboratory (NPL).
In their study, the project team, comprising biotechnology experts from NPL, the University of Edinburgh and IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, aimed to resolve controversy over how part of an HIV protein is structured.
They presented a definitive structure of the protein, which was obtained using experimental techniques and computer simulation.
It is important to know exactly how viral proteins are structured so that drug developers can target weaknesses within it, and therefore devise better treatments for people.
"In this research, we were looking at a part of the HIV virus that helps it fuse with, and then infect, healthy cells within the human body. By confirming the structure of this tiny, but significant, fragment of the HIV-1 protein we are helping to shed more light on its infection mechanism. Further work in this area will hopefully lead to a full understanding of exactly how it works, and therefore lead to better treatments for HIV," said NPL's Eleonora Cerasoli.
To continue their efforts to understand the interactions between human cells and the HIV virus proteins, the research team will also be using the unique synchrotron facility available at Diamond Light Source.
The insight this provides may help enable the next steps towards rational drug design and commercial exploitation.
The study is the first outcome of different investigations the research team are carrying out on biomedically important model systems. Therefore, the overall scope goes beyond understanding HIV's structure alone.
The team is working on establishing structure-activity relationships which will further our understanding and treatment of other diseases, such as Alzheimer's.
The study is published in Journal of Physical Chemistry B.