We are investigating the binding of a series of monoclonal antibodies to native and detergent-treated human T-lymphotropic virus I (HTLV-I) envelope proteins to explore their conformation. A comparison of our data with previously published findings suggests that a central neutralization domain (aa 175–200) is folded such that only short stretches are exposed at the surface of the native envelope protein complex. However, the complete domain becomes accessible after treatment with mild non-ionic detergents, suggesting that envelope subunit interaction may partially obscure this domain. We further provide immunochemical evidence that a region containing a heptad repeat in the extracellular part of the transmembrane protein is folded towards the interior of the HTLV-I envelope complex.


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