Mosaic structure of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 genome infecting lymphoid cells and the brain: evidence for frequent in vivo recombination events in the evolution of regional populations.
Morris A., Marsden M., Halcrow K., Hughes ES., Brettle RP., Bell JE., Simmonds P.
In addition to immunodeficiency, human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) can cause cognitive impairment and dementia through direct infection of the brain. To investigate the adaptive process and timing of HIV-1 entry into the central nervous system, we carried out an extensive genetic characterization of variants amplified from different regions of the brain and determined their relatedness to those in lymphoid tissue. HIV-1 genomes infecting different regions of the brain of one study subject with HIV encephalitis (HIVE) had a mosaic structure, being assembled from different combinations of evolutionarily distinct lineages in p17(gag), pol, individual hypervariable regions of gp120 (V1/V2, V3, V4, and V5), and gp41/nef. Similar discordant phylogenetic relationships were observed between p17(gag) and V3 sequences of brain and lymphoid tissue from three other individuals with HIVE. The observation that different parts of the genome of HIV infecting a particular tissue can have different evolutionary histories necessarily limits the conclusions that can be drawn from previous studies of the compartmentalization of distinct HIV populations in different tissues, as these have been generally restricted to sequence comparisons of single subgenomic regions. The complexity of viral populations in the brain produced by recombination could provide a powerful adaptive mechanism for the spread of virus with new phenotypes, such as antiviral resistance or escape from cytotoxic T-cell recognition into existing tissue-adapted virus populations.