Author(s): Demma LJ, Vanderford TH, Logsdon JM Jr, Feinberg MB, Staprans SI
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Abstract BACKGROUND: The ability of emerging pathogens to infect new species is likely related to the diversity of pathogen variants present in existing reservoirs and their degree of genomic plasticity, which determines their ability to adapt to new environments. Certain simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIVcpz, SIVsm) have demonstrated tremendous success in infecting new species, including humans, resulting in the HIV-1 and HIV-2 epidemics. Although SIV diversification has been studied on a population level, the essential substrates for cross-species transmission, namely SIV sequence diversity and the types and extent of viral diversification present in individual reservoir animals have not been elucidated. To characterize this intra-host SIV diversity, we performed sequence analyses of clonal viral envelope (env) V1V2 and gag p27 variants present in individual SIVsm-infected sooty mangabeys over time. RESULTS: SIVsm demonstrated extensive intra-animal V1V2 length variation and amino acid diversity (le38\%), and continual variation in V1V2 N-linked glycosylation consensus sequence frequency and location. Positive selection was the predominant evolutionary force. Temporal sequence shifts suggested continual selection, likely due to evolving antibody responses. In contrast, gag p27 was predominantly under purifying selection. SIVsm V1V2 sequence diversification is at least as great as that in HIV-1 infected humans, indicating that extensive viral diversification in and of itself does not inevitably lead to AIDS. CONCLUSION: Positive diversifying selection in this natural reservoir host is the engine that has driven the evolution of the uniquely adaptable SIV/HIV envelope protein. These studies emphasize the importance of retroviral diversification within individual host reservoir animals as a critical substrate in facilitating cross-species transmission.
This article was published in Retrovirology
and referenced in Journal of Neuroinfectious Diseases