Fusion of viral and cell membranes is a key event in the process by which the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) enters the target cell. Membrane fusion is facilitated by the interaction of the viral gp41 fusion peptide with the cell membrane. Using synthetic peptides and model membrane systems, it has been established that the sequence of events implies the binding of the peptide to the membrane, followed by a conformational change (transformation of unordered and helical structures into β-aggregates) which precedes lipid mixing. It is known that this process can be influenced by the membrane lipid composition. In the present work we have undertaken a systematic study in order to determine the influence of cholesterol (abundant in the viral membrane) in the sequence of events leading to lipid mixing. Besides its effect on membrane fluidity, cholesterol can affect a less known physical parameter, the membrane dipole potential. Using the dipole potential fluorescent sensor di-8-ANEPPS together with other biophysical techniques, we show that cholesterol increases the affinity of the fusion peptide for the model membranes, and although it lowers the extent of lipid mixing, it increases the mixing rate. The influence of cholesterol on the peptide affinity and the lipid mixing rate are shown to be mainly due to its influence of the membrane dipole potential, whereas the lipid mixing extent and peptide conformational changes seem to be more dependent on other membrane parameters such as membrane fluidity and hydration. © 2006 American Chemical Society.
|Publication status||Published - 26 Dec 2006|