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The HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env) mediates viral entry into the host cell. Although the highly dynamic nature of Env intramolecular conformations has been shown with single molecule spectroscopy in vitro, the bona fide Env intra- and intermolecular mechanics when engaged with live T cells remains unknown. We used two photon fast fluorescence lifetime imaging detection of single-molecule Förster Resonance Energy Transfer occurring between fluorescent labels on HIV-1 Env on native virions. Our observations reveal Env dynamics at two levels: transitions between different intramolecular conformations and intermolecular interactions between Env within the viral membrane. Furthermore, we show that three broad neutralizing anti-Env antibodies directed to different epitopes restrict Env intramolecular dynamics and interactions between adjacent Env molecules when engaged with living T cells. Importantly, our results show that Env-Env interactions depend on efficient virus maturation, and that is disrupted upon binding of Env to CD4 or by neutralizing antibodies. Thus, this study illuminates how different intramolecular conformations and distribution of Env molecules mediate HIV-1 Env-T cell interactions in real time and therefore might control immune evasion.

Original publication




Journal article


Communications biology

Publication Date





Department of Infectious Diseases, King's College London, Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine, London, United Kingdom.


T-Lymphocytes, HIV-1, Virion, Viral Proteins, Virus Internalization, env Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus