How does HIV attach to a host cell?

Updated: Mar 05, 2020
  • Author: Delia M Rivera, MD; Chief Editor: Russell W Steele, MD  more...
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The HIV virus attaches to the host cell by the association of a surface glycoprotein to the CD4 molecule; therefore, it primarily infects CD4+ lymphocytes and macrophages.

After HIV enters a host, trimeric gp120 glycoproteins that protrude from its lipoprotein bilayer envelope bind to CD4 cell-surface receptors and CCR5 or CXCR4 chemokine co-receptors. Juxtapositioned co-receptors are needed for viral infection. The V3 region of the gp120 glycoprotein determines cellular tropism, and tropism is involved in syncytial formation. M-tropic (nonsyncytial) strains prefer the CCR5 co-receptor and are the primary causes of infection.

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