Correlation between HIV sequence evolution, specific immune response and clinical outcome in vertically infected infants

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Objective:To evaluate sequence evolution in relation to different rates of disease progression in infants infected with HIV-1.Design:Variability in the gp120 V3 region was analysed in HIV-1-infected children with different clinical courses, slow progression (n = 2) versus progressive disease (n = 3).Methods:Cloning and sequencing of virus-derived DNA from uncultured peripheral blood mononuclear cells was performed at two to three timepoints from birth and up to the fifth year of life. Sequence variability was estimated by calculating the genetic distance and the proportion and ratio of synonymous and non-synonymous nucleotide substitutions over time.Results:Genetic distances were significantly shorter in children with fast progression to disease, a predominance of synonymous nucleotide substitutions also being detected at later timepoints. Conversely, a preferential accumulation of non-synonymous nucleotide substitutions was apparent in children with slow disease progression. Furthermore, a positive correlation between a decreased ratio of synonymous/non-synonymous nucleotide substitutions and the ability of children's sera to react with synthetic peptides representing the autologous virus sequence was determined.Conclusion:Data suggest that an antigenically more diverse virus population emerges in infected children with slower progression to disease as a result of a stronger immune pressure.

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