Solution structure of peptides from HIV-1 Vpr protein that cause membrane permeabilization and growth arrest

Shenggen Yao, Allan M. Torres, Ahmed A. Azad, Ian G. Macreadie, Raymond S. Norton

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Vpr, one of the accessory gene products encoded by HIV-1, is a 96-residue protein with a number of functions, including targeting of the viral pre-integration complex to the nucleus and inducing growth arrest of dividing cells. We have characterized by 2D NMR the solution conformations of bioactive synthetic peptide fragments of Vpr encompassing a pair of H(F/S)RIG sequence motifs (residues 71-75 and 78-82 of HIV-1 Vpr) that cause cell membrane permeabilization and death in yeast and mammalian cells. Due to limited solubility of the peptides in water, their structures were studied in aqueous trifluoroethanol. Peptide Vpr59-86 (residues 59-86 of Vpr) formed an α-helix encompassing residues 60-77, with a kink in the vicinity of residue 62. The first of the repeated sequence motifs (HFRIG) participated in the well-defined α-helical domain whereas the second (HSRIG) lay outside the helical domain and formed a reverse turn followed by a less ordered region. On the other hand, peptides Vpr71-82 and Vpr71-96, in which the sequence motifs were located at the N-terminus, were largely unstructured under similar conditions, as judged by their CαH chemical shifts. Thus, the HFRIG and HSRIG motifs adopt α-helical and turn structures, respectively, when preceded by a helical structure, but are largely unstructured in isolation. The implications of these findings for interpretation of the structure-function relationships of synthetic peptides containing these motifs are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)426-435
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Peptide Science
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Helices
  • HIV-1
  • Sequence motifs
  • Solution structure
  • Viral protein

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