Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 env evolves toward ancestral states upon transmission to a new host

Joshua T. Herbeck, David C. Nickle, Gerald H. Learn, Geoffrey S. Gottlieb, Marcel E. Curlin, Laura Heath, James I. Mullins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Selecting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) sequences for inclusion within vaccines has been a difficult problem, as circulating HIV strains evolve relentlessly and become increasingly divergent over time. We report an assessment of this divergence from three perspectives: (i) across different hosts as a function of time of infection, (ii) between donors and recipients in known transmission pairs, and (iii) within individual hosts over time in relation to the initially replicating virus and to the deduced ancestral sequence of the intrahost viral population. Surprisingly, we consistently found less divergence between viruses from different individuals sampled in primary infection than in individuals sampled at more advanced stages of illness. Furthermore, longitudinal analysis of intrahost divergence revealed a 2- to 3-year period of evolution toward a common ancestral sequence at the start of infection, indicating that HIV recovers certain ancestral features when infecting a new host. These results have important implications for the study of HIV population genetics and rational vaccine design, including favoring the inclusion of viral gene sequences taken early in infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1637-1644
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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