HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is the virus that causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). There are currently 36.7 million people worldwide living with HIV and about 35 million people in the world have died of AIDS. Several drugs have been developed that target HIV replication, however, access to these treatments is not widely available, and many strains of the virus can become resistant. Research has been done to understand the proteins that allow HIV to create more virus in the host’s body, which may assist in the development of new therapeutic methods to combat the virus.
Two proteins involved in entry and assembly of the virus can be visualized in the above image. The membrane of the infected host cell is blue, and the HIV proteins Env and Gag are green and red, respectively. The technique used to capture this image is called multicolor three-dimensional superresolution microscopy, and the visualization of each molecule is accomplished by labeling the molecule of interest with a fluorescent substance called a fluorophore. When light of a certain wavelength called the excitation light hits the specimen, it emits light of a certain wavelength or color. This is how Env, a protein expressed on the surface of the virus that is required for viral entry through the membrane of host cells, and Gag, a protein necessary for the assembly of new viruses at the membrane of host cells, are pictured here in color.
Image source: Buttler CA, Pezeshkian N, Fernandez MV, et al. Single molecule fate of HIV-1 envelope reveals late-stage viral lattice incorporation. Nat Commun. 2018;9(1):1861. Published 2018 May 10. doi:10.1038/s41467-018-04220-w
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