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Structural and functional studies of HIV Env as a transmembrane protein have long been complicated by challenges associated with inherent flexibility of the molecule and the membrane-embedded hydrophobic regions. Thus, most structural studies have utilized soluble forms where the regions C-terminal to the ectodomain are deleted. Here, we present approaches for incorporating full-length, wild-type HIV-1 Env, as well as C-terminally truncated and stabilized versions, into lipid assemblies, providing a modular platform for Env structural studies by single particle electron microscopy. We reconstituted a full-length Env clone into a nanodisc with MSP1D1 scaffold, complexed it with an MPER targeting antibody 10E8, and structurally defined the full quaternary epitope of 10E8 consisting of lipid, MPER and ectodomain contacts. By aligning this and other Env-MPER antibody complex reconstructions with the lipid bilayer, we observe evidence of Env tilting as part of the neutralization mechanism for MPER-targeting antibodies. We also adapted the platform toward vaccine design purposes by introducing stabilizing mutations that allow purification of unliganded Env with peptidisc scaffold.

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