Note: this site last updated in 2006
An article from "The Molecules of HIV" (c) Dan Stowell
When biologists discover new proteins, they give them a name. They usually also give them a shorter name (just three letters) to refer to them conveniently. In HIV there are proteins called such things as env, gag, pol, rev - not very memorable! The name is often an abbreviation which refers to the function of the protein. env proteins are found in the viral envelope, for example.
Sometimes proteins are just referred to by their relative size, as revealed in a technique called the Western blot. p17 and p24 are examples - the "p" stands for protein, and the "24" and "17" tell us the relative sizes (p24 being bigger than p17). gp120 is a glycoprotein, which means that it's a protein which has been "glycosylated" by enzymes, which have added sugar groups on to the protein.