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Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) mutations that confer escape from cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) recognition can sometimes result in lower viral fitness. These mutations can then revert upon transmission to a new host in the absence of CTL-mediated immune selection pressure restricted by the HLA alleles of the prior host. To identify these potentially critical recognition points on the virus, we assessed HLA-driven viral evolution using three phylogenetic correction methods across full HIV-1 subtype C proteomes from a cohort of 261 South Africans and identified amino acids conferring either susceptibility or resistance to CTLs. A total of 558 CTL-susceptible and -resistant HLA-amino acid associations were identified and organized into 310 immunological sets (groups of individual associations related to a single HLA/epitope combination). Mutations away from seven susceptible residues, including four in Gag, were associated with lower plasma viral-RNA loads (q < 0.2 [where q is the expected false-discovery rate]) in individuals with the corresponding HLA alleles. The ratio of susceptible to resistant residues among those without the corresponding HLA alleles varied in the order Vpr > Gag > Rev > Pol > Nef > Vif > Tat > Env > Vpu (Fisher's exact test; P < or = 0.0009 for each comparison), suggesting the same ranking of fitness costs by genes associated with CTL escape. Significantly more HLA-B (chi(2); P = 3.59 x 10(-5)) and HLA-C (chi(2); P = 4.71 x 10(-6)) alleles were associated with amino acid changes than HLA-A, highlighting their importance in driving viral evolution. In conclusion, specific HIV-1 residues (enriched in Vpr, Gag, and Rev) and HLA alleles (particularly B and C) confer susceptibility to the CTL response and are likely to be important in the development of vaccines targeted to decrease the viral load.

Original publication

DOI

10.1128/JVI.02455-07

Type

Journal article

Journal

J Virol

Publication Date

07/2008

Volume

82

Pages

6434 - 6446

Keywords

Amino Acid Sequence, Base Sequence, Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte, Evolution, Molecular, Genes, MHC Class I, HIV Infections, HIV-1, Humans, Immunity, Cellular, Molecular Sequence Data, Phylogeny, Sequence Analysis, DNA, South Africa, T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic, Viremia