HIV Invasion

Submitted by: Christina Sidorowych

Program: Biomedical Visualization

Division: Life Sciences

HIV is both a formidable invader and destructive assailant. The virus attacks the immune system and destroys CD4 cells. Understanding the viral life cycle of HIV, its structural biology, and its interplay with the immune system is important to finding novel strategies for attack. The HIV surface glycoprotein gp160, composed of gp120 and gp41, is the virus’ “key” for entry into the CD4 lymphocyte. The virus’ initial engagement with the CD4 cell is attachment of gp120 to the CD4 receptors on the cell’s surface. As the HIV envelope protein bounds to the receptor CD4 and then to coreceptor CCR5, it causes a change in conformation the inserts fusion peptides into the cellular membrane, allowing the viral capsid to enter the host cell.

Warm tones are used to highlight the focal point, which is in stark contrast to the cool blue monochromatic environment. As the foreign invader attacks the host, an electrical impulse forms as the proteins attach, grabbing the viewer’s eye. Created with a combination of PDB data and manual modeling in ZBrush and 3Ds Max, this dynamic composition elicits motion and quickly captures the energetic nature of HIV attachment and host cell entry.