US Pharm. 2014;39(2):35.

Scientists from Duke University have discovered the structure of a key part of the HIV envelope protein, the gp41 membrane proximal external region (MPER). The research, reported online in the January 13 early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, will help focus HIV vaccine development efforts.

“One reason vaccine development is such a difficult problem is that HIV is exceptionally good at evading the immune system,” said Bruce Donald, an author and professor in Duke’s computer science and biochemistry departments. 

The envelope protein complex is a structure that protrudes from HIV’s membrane and infects healthy host cells. Scientists have long targeted this complex for vaccine development, specifically its three copies of a protein called gp41 and a related protein, gp120.