Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy vol:57 issue:8 pages:3976-89
Griffithsin (Grft) is a protein lectin derived from red algae that tightly binds the HIV envelope protein gp120 and effectively inhibits virus infection. This inhibition is due to the binding by Grft of high-mannose saccharides on the surface of gp120. Grft has been shown to be a tight dimer, but the role of the dimer in Grft's anti-HIV function has not been fully explored. To investigate the role of the Grft dimer in anti-HIV function, an obligate dimer of Grft was designed by expressing the protein with a peptide linker between the two subunits. This "Grft-linker-Grft" is a folded protein dimer, apparently nearly identical in structural properties to the wild-type protein. A "one-armed" obligate dimer was also designed (Grft-linker-Grft OneArm), with each of the three carbohydrate binding sites of one subunit mutated while the other subunit remained intact. While both constructed dimers retained the ability to bind gp120 and the viral surface, Grft-linker-Grft OneArm was 84- to 1,010-fold less able to inhibit HIV than wild-type Grft, while Grft-linker-Grft had near-wild-type antiviral potency. Furthermore, while the wild-type protein demonstrated the ability to alter the structure of gp120 by exposing the CD4 binding site, Grft-linker-Grft OneArm largely lost this ability. In experiments to investigate gp120 shedding, it was found that Grft has different effects on gp120 shedding for strains from subtype B and subtype C, and this might correlate with Grft function. Evidence is provided that the dimer form of Grft is critical to the function of this protein in HIV inhibition.