HIV Vaccine Target

Specialized spikes, known as envelope glycoproteins (Env) (shown here in orange, red, and yellow), stand out on the surface of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The spikes allow HIV to attach to its targets, CD4 and CCR5 proteins (blue and purple) on human immune cells. HIV can then infect the immune cells.

This illustration shows the structure of HIV’s surface spikes, and spike attachment to immune cell proteins. It accompanied the article “HIV’s Achille’s Heel” in the December 2016 issue of Scientific American. Researchers are developing versions of the HIV spike that can be used as a vaccine, so that the immune system will be able to recognize and combat the real spikes on invading viruses if a person is exposed to HIV.

This visual was created with Maxon Cinema4D, ePMV, and Adobe Photoshop.

Sanders, Rogier W., Ian A. Wilson, and John P. Moore. 2016. “HIV’s Achille’s Heel.” Scientific American 315(6): 53.