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AIDS is a condition in humans in which progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive.

The viral envelope contains proteins from the host cell and relatively few copies of the HIV Envelope protein, The Envelope protein, encoded by the HIV env gene, allows the virus to attach to target cells and fuse the viral envelope with the target cell's membrane releasing the viral contents into the cell and initiating the infectious cycle.

Over half of the mass of the trimeric envelope spike is N-linked glycans.

Three of these genes, gag, pol, and env, contain information needed to make the structural proteins for new virus particles.

For example, env codes for a protein called gp160 that is cut in two by a cellular protease to form gp120 and gp41.

Recombinant trimeric viral spikes are promising vaccine candidates as they display less non-neutralising epitopes than recombinant monomeric gp120, which act to suppress the immune response to target epitopes.

The RNA genome consists of at least seven structural landmarks (LTR, TAR, RRE, PE, SLIP, CRS, and INS), and nine genes (gag, pol, and env, tat, rev, nef, vif, vpr, vpu, and sometimes a tenth tev, which is a fusion of tat, env and rev), encoding 19 proteins.

In most cases, HIV is a sexually transmitted infection and occurs by contact with or transfer of blood, pre-ejaculate, semen, and vaginal fluids.

Non-sexual transmission can occur from an infected mother to her infant through breast milk.

The density is high as the glycans shield the underlying viral protein from neutralisation by antibodies.

This is one of the most densely glycosylated molecules known and the density is sufficiently high to prevent the normal maturation process of glycans during biogenesis in the endoplasmic and Golgi apparatus.

Upon entry into the target cell, the viral RNA genome is converted (reverse transcribed) into double-stranded DNA by a virally encoded enzyme, reverse transcriptase, that is transported along with the viral genome in the virus particle.