Typically a virus contains an RNA (ribonucleic acid) or DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) core of genetic material surrounded by a protein coat. See also DNA; Ribonucleic Acid.
As related to HIV: Within HIV's envelope is a bullet-shaped core made of another protein, p24, that surrounds the viral RNA. Each strand of HIV RNA contains the virus's nine genes. Three of these--gag, pol, and env--are structural genes that contain information needed to make structural proteins. The env gene, for example, codes for gp160, a protein that is later broken down to gp120 and gp41. See also ENV; GP41; GP120; GP160; P24.
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