The Molecules of HIV

Note: this site last updated in 2006

HIV virus particle

An article from "The Molecules of HIV" (c) Dan Stowell

If you were to look at a HIV virus particle under a microscope, it would look something like this:

Artist's impression

The size of the particle is around 0.0001mm.

   (For a more detailed simulation, see 3D HIV.)

There are two main parts, essentially: the inner core (the "pill-shaped" section in the diagram), and the viral membrane. Let's look at these in a little more detail:

The viral membrane encloses the particle, and has about nine or ten gp160 spikes embedded in it which are involved in binding and membrane fusion when the virus particle attaches to a cell.

The inner core is the "payload" of the virus, containing the viral RNA and some enzymes (reverse transcriptase, protease, integrase).

Written by
Dan Stowell

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