Do human cells have gp-120 molecules?

ladasky at ladasky at
Thu Mar 16 04:48:15 EST 2000

In article <eqehi3wj$GA.248 at cpmsnbbsa05>,
"Russell Farris" <tryggvi at> wrote:
> Many viruses, and at least one bacterium (Pneumocystis carinii) have
> "gp-120" molecules on their shells and walls. Rat and human tumors also have
> gp-120 molecules. What is not clear to me from sources I have been looking
> at is whether all or most human cells also have these molecules. Your help
> will be greatly appreciated.
> Russ Farris

Hi, Russ,

The nomenclature "gp120" simply means "glycoprotein, with a mass of 120
kilodaltons."  This kind of a name is given to a novel protein by
scientists when they do not know anything about the protein other than
than its mass, and the fact that it is a glycoprotein (meaning that it
possesses covalently-linked sugar molecules).  Many, many different
proteins could fit this description.  When a protein is shown to possess
an interesting function, it usually gets a more descriptive name.

There's only one famous protein going by the name gp120.  This is, of
course, the protein on the surface of HIV, which binds the CD4 molecule
on T cells.  The other references to gp120 that you have found (on the
net, presumably?) almost certainly describe completely different
molecules that just happen to have similar masses to te HIV protein.
Please do not be misled into thinking that any of these gp120's are the
SAME molecule, unless a reference specifically tells you so!

John J. Ladasky Jr., Ph.D.
Department of Structural Biology
Stanford University Meidcal Center
Stanford, CA 94305

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