Host-specific modulation of the selective constraints driving human immunodeficiency virus type 1 env gene evolution

Patrizia Bagnarelli, Francesca Mazzola, Stefano Menzo, Maria Montroni, Luca Butini, Massimo Clementi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To address the evolution of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) within a single host, we analyzed the HIV-1 C2-V5 env regions of both cell- free genomic-RNA- and proviral-DNA-derived clones. Sequential samples were collected over a period of 3 years from six untreated subjects (three typical progressors [TPs] and three slow progressors [SPs], all with a comparable length of infection except one. The evolutionary analysis of the C2-V5 env sequences performed on 506 molecular clones (253 RNA- and 253 DNA-derived sequences) highlighted a series of differences between TPs and SPs. In particular, (i) clonal sequences from SPs (DNA and RNA) showed lower nucleotide similarity than those from TPs (P = 0.0001), (ii) DNA clones from SPs showed higher intra- and intersample nucleotide divergence than those from TPs (P <0.05), (iii) higher host-selective pressure was generally detectable in SPs (DNA and RNA sequences), and (iv) the increase in the genetic distance of DNA and RNA sequences over time was paralleled by an increase in both synonymous (Ks) and nonsynonymous (Ka) substitutions in TPs but only in nonsynonymous substitutions in SPs. Several individual peculiarities of the HIV-1 evolutionary dynamics emerged when the V3, V4, and V5 env regions of both TPs and SPs were evaluated separately. These peculiarities, probably reflecting host-specific features of selective constraints and their continuous modulation, are documented by the dynamics of Ka/Ks ratios of hypervariable env domains.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3764-3777
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology


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