The Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV for short, is the virus responsible for the currently incurable disease called AIDS. As with any living organism, this virus has a unique structure and scientists have been successful in uncovering its genomic sequence.      

Similar to other retroviruses, HIV will try to invade a host cell and leave a copy of its genome, effectively altering the host’s own genetic makeup. Essentially, the HIV virion is about 100 nanometers long and its cone-shaped core hides two copies of the ssRNA genome, alongside various proteins that assist the virus in infecting other cells.      

Each single-strand RNA is bound with proteins and enzymes responsible for helping the development of the virus. Additionally, the HIV particle is supported by a matrix composed of the p17 viral protein and the envelope, a protective layer surrounding the capsid.     

The HIV genome contains 9 genes (in rare cases, 10) for the creation of proteins found in all retroviruses, as well as a few proteins unique to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The fifteen different kinds of proteins that are created will synthesize as polyproteins which, in turn, will produce proteins for its interior or its envelope.    

hiv genome

The aforementioned envelope is what protects the virus from being detected by the infected organism’s immune system. The envelope protein will allow the virus to fuse with the target cells and allow the RNA to begin infecting the target’s genome. Since the envelope protein is the only one found on the virus’s surface, potential cures that will target this specific protein are currently being researched.      

It is important to note that the HIV-2 variation is different in genome and structure, but it is not as thoroughly researched as HIV-1. What scientists do know, however, is that HIV-2 is not widespread, as it is mostly contained in certain parts of Africa. Tests that are designed to detect HIV-1 will also work for the HIV-2 variant.