The frantic play of the concealed HIV envelope cytoplasmic tail.
- HIV Clinical and Translational Research
Lentiviruses have unusually long envelope (Env) cytoplasmic tails, longer than those of other retroviruses. Whereas the Env ectodomain has received much attention, the gp41 cytoplasmic tail (gp41-CT) is one of the least studied parts of the virus. It displays relatively high conservation compared to the rest of Env. It has been long established that the gp41-CT interacts with the Gag precursor protein to ensure Env incorporation into the virion. The gp41-CT contains distinct motifs and domains that mediate both intensive Env intracellular trafficking and interactions with numerous cellular and viral proteins, optimizing viral infectivity. Although they are not fully understood, a multiplicity of interactions between the gp41-CT and cellular factors have been described over the last decade; these interactions illustrate how Env expression and incorporation into virions is a finely tuned process that has evolved to best exploit the host system with minimized genetic information. This review addresses the structure and topology of the gp41-CT of lentiviruses (mainly HIV and SIV), their domains and believed functions. It also considers the cellular and viral proteins that have been described to interact with the gp41-CT, with a particular focus on subtype-related polymorphisms.