To determine whether pan-protease inhibitor (PI)-resistant virus populations are composed predominantly of viruses with resistance to all PIs or of diverse virus populations with resistance to different subsets of PIs.
We performed deep sequencing of plasma virus samples from nine patients with high-level genotypic and/or phenotypic resistance to all licensed PIs. The nine virus samples had a median of 12 PI resistance mutations by direct PCR Sanger sequencing.
For each of the nine virus samples, deep sequencing showed that each of the individual viruses within a sample contained nearly all of the mutations detected by Sanger sequencing. Indeed, a median of 94.9% of deep sequence reads had each of the PI resistance mutations present as a single chromatographic peak in the Sanger sequence. A median of 5.0% of reads had all but one of the Sanger mutations that were not part of an electrophoretic mixture.
The collinearity of PI resistance mutations in the nine virus samples demonstrated that pan-PI-resistant viruses are able to replicate in vivo despite their highly mutated protease enzymes. We hypothesize that the marked collinearity of PI resistance mutations in pan-PI-resistant virus populations results from the unique requirements for multi-PI resistance and the extensive cross-resistance conferred by many of the accessory PI resistance mutations.
Keywords: drug resistance, deep sequencing, minority variants, Sanger sequencing