Wen Yuan Research Interests
The research in Dr. Yuan’s lab focuses on the structure-function relationship of HIV-1 envelope glycoproteins. As the sole viral component on the virion surface, HIV envelope glycoproteins mediate virus entry into target cells, as well as serve as attractive targets in the development of prophylactic approach, including vaccine.
HIV-1 envelope glycoproteins, gp120 and gp41, constitute a trimeric complex that is anchored on the virus by the membrane-spanning segments of the gp41 transmembrane envelop glycoproteins. The gp120 exterior envelope glycoprotein is retained on the trimer via labile, non-covalent interactions with the gp41 ectodomain. The gp120 binds the cellular receptors, CD4 and one of the chemokine receptors, CCR5 or CXCR4. Receptor binding triggers conformational changes in the envelope glycoproteins that lead to the gp41 fusing the viral and target cell membranes. Understanding the structure and the conformational transitions of the HIV-1 envelope glycoproteins is essential to any rational attempt to block virus entry by drugs or vaccine-induced antibodies.