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1.  Realistic Three Dimensional Fitness Landscapes Generated by Self Organizing Maps for the Analysis of Experimental HIV-1 Evolution 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88579.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus type 1 (HIV-1) because of high mutation rates, large population sizes, and rapid replication, exhibits complex evolutionary strategies. For the analysis of evolutionary processes, the graphical representation of fitness landscapes provides a significant advantage. The experimental determination of viral fitness remains, in general, difficult and consequently most published fitness landscapes have been artificial, theoretical or estimated. Self-Organizing Maps (SOM) are a class of Artificial Neural Network (ANN) for the generation of topological ordered maps. Here, three-dimensional (3D) data driven fitness landscapes, derived from a collection of sequences from HIV-1 viruses after “in vitro” passages and labelled with the corresponding experimental fitness values, were created by SOM. These maps were used for the visualization and study of the evolutionary process of HIV-1 “in vitro” fitness recovery, by directly relating fitness values with viral sequences. In addition to the representation of the sequence space search carried out by the viruses, these landscapes could also be applied for the analysis of related variants like members of viral quasiespecies. SOM maps permit the visualization of the complex evolutionary pathways in HIV-1 fitness recovery. SOM fitness landscapes have an enormous potential for the study of evolution in related viruses of “in vitro” works or from “in vivo” clinical studies with human, animal or plant viral infections.
PMCID: PMC3938428  PMID: 24586344
2.  Antiviral Therapy and Outcomes of Patients with Pneumonia Caused by Influenza A Pandemic (H1N1) Virus 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e29652.
There is limited data on the clinical outcome of patients with pandemic H1N1 (pH1N1) pneumonia who received oseltamivir treatment, especially when the treatment was administered more than 48 hours after symptom onset.
During the pandemic in 2009, a cohort of pH1N1 influenza pneumonia was built in China, and their clinical information was collected systematically, and analyzed with Cox models.
920 adults and 541 children with pneumonia who didn't receive corticosteroids were analyzed. In-hospital mortality was higher in adults who did not receive antiviral therapy (18.2%) than those with who received oseltamivir ≤ 2days (2.9%), between 2–5 days (4.6%) and >5 days after illness onset (4.9%), p<0.01. A similar trend was observed in pediatric patients. Cox regression showed that at 60 days after symptoms onset, 11 patients (10.8%) who did not receive antivirals died versus 4 (1.8%), 18 (3.3%), and 23 (3.7%) patients whose oseltamivir treatment was started ≤ 2days, between 2–5days, and >5 days, respectively. For males patients, aged ≥ 14 years and baseline PaO2/FiO2<200, oseltamivir administration reduced the mortality risk by 92.1%, 88% and 83.5%, respectively. Higher doses of oseltamivir (>3.8 mg/kg/d) did not improve clinical outcome (mortality, higher dose 2.5% vs standard dose 2.8%, p>0.05).
Antiviral therapy might reduce mortality of patients with pH1N1 pneumonia, even when initiated more than 48 hours after onset of illness. Greater protective effects might be in males, patients aged 14–60 years, and patients with PaO2/FiO2<200.
PMCID: PMC3262784  PMID: 22276122
3.  Optimization of a Low Cost and Broadly Sensitive Genotyping Assay for HIV-1 Drug Resistance Surveillance and Monitoring in Resource-Limited Settings 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e28184.
Commercially available HIV-1 drug resistance (HIVDR) genotyping assays are expensive and have limitations in detecting non-B subtypes and circulating recombinant forms that are co-circulating in resource-limited settings (RLS). This study aimed to optimize a low cost and broadly sensitive in-house assay in detecting HIVDR mutations in the protease (PR) and reverse transcriptase (RT) regions of pol gene. The overall plasma genotyping sensitivity was 95.8% (N = 96). Compared to the original in-house assay and two commercially available genotyping systems, TRUGENE® and ViroSeq®, the optimized in-house assay showed a nucleotide sequence concordance of 99.3%, 99.6% and 99.1%, respectively. The optimized in-house assay was more sensitive in detecting mixture bases than the original in-house (N = 87, P<0.001) and TRUGENE® and ViroSeq® assays. When the optimized in-house assay was applied to genotype samples collected for HIVDR surveys (N = 230), all 72 (100%) plasma and 69 (95.8%) of the matched dried blood spots (DBS) in the Vietnam transmitted HIVDR survey were genotyped and nucleotide sequence concordance was 98.8%; Testing of treatment-experienced patient plasmas with viral load (VL) ≥ and <3 log10 copies/ml from the Nigeria and Malawi surveys yielded 100% (N = 46) and 78.6% (N = 14) genotyping rates, respectively. Furthermore, all 18 matched DBS stored at room temperature from the Nigeria survey were genotyped. Phylogenetic analysis of the 236 sequences revealed that 43.6% were CRF01_AE, 25.9% subtype C, 13.1% CRF02_AG, 5.1% subtype G, 4.2% subtype B, 2.5% subtype A, 2.1% each subtype F and unclassifiable, 0.4% each CRF06_CPX, CRF07_BC and CRF09_CPX.
The optimized in-house assay is broadly sensitive in genotyping HIV-1 group M viral strains and more sensitive than the original in-house, TRUGENE® and ViroSeq® in detecting mixed viral populations. The broad sensitivity and substantial reagent cost saving make this assay more accessible for RLS where HIVDR surveillance is recommended to minimize the development and transmission of HIVDR.
PMCID: PMC3223235  PMID: 22132237
4.  Using HIV Transmission Networks to Investigate Community Effects in HIV Prevention Trials 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27775.
Effective population screening of HIV and prevention of HIV transmission are only part of the global fight against AIDS. Community-level effects, for example those aimed at thwarting future transmission, are potential outcomes of treatment and may be important in stemming the epidemic. However, current clinical trial designs are incapable of detecting a reduction in future transmission due to treatment. We took advantage of the fact that HIV is an evolving pathogen whose transmission network can be reconstructed using genetic sequence information to address this shortcoming. Here, we use an HIV transmission network inferred from recently infected men who have sex with men (MSM) in San Diego, California. We developed and tested a network-based statistic for measuring treatment effects using simulated clinical trials on our inferred transmission network. We explored the statistical power of this network-based statistic against conventional efficacy measures and find that when future transmission is reduced, the potential for increased statistical power can be realized. Furthermore, our simulations demonstrate that the network statistic is able to detect community-level effects (e.g., reduction in onward transmission) of HIV treatment in a clinical trial setting. This study demonstrates the potential utility of a network-based statistical metric when investigating HIV treatment options as a method to reduce onward transmission in a clinical trial setting.
PMCID: PMC3218056  PMID: 22114692
5.  Whole Genome Sequencing and Evolutionary Analysis of Human Respiratory Syncytial Virus A and B from Milwaukee, WI 1998-2010 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e25468.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is the leading cause of lower respiratory-tract infections in infants and young children worldwide. Despite this, only six complete genome sequences of original strains have been previously published, the most recent of which dates back 35 and 26 years for RSV group A and group B respectively.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We present a semi-automated sequencing method allowing for the sequencing of four RSV whole genomes simultaneously. We were able to sequence the complete coding sequences of 13 RSV A and 4 RSV B strains from Milwaukee collected from 1998–2010. Another 12 RSV A and 5 RSV B strains sequenced in this study cover the majority of the genome. All RSV A and RSV B sequences were analyzed by neighbor-joining, maximum parsimony and Bayesian phylogeny methods. Genetic diversity was high among RSV A viruses in Milwaukee including the circulation of multiple genotypes (GA1, GA2, GA5, GA7) with GA2 persisting throughout the 13 years of the study. However, RSV B genomes showed little variation with all belonging to the BA genotype. For RSV A, the same evolutionary patterns and clades were seen consistently across the whole genome including all intergenic, coding, and non-coding regions sequences.
The sequencing strategy presented in this work allows for RSV A and B genomes to be sequenced simultaneously in two working days and with a low cost. We have significantly increased the amount of genomic data that is available for both RSV A and B, providing the basic molecular characteristics of RSV strains circulating in Milwaukee over the last 13 years. This information can be used for comparative analysis with strains circulating in other communities around the world which should also help with the development of new strategies for control of RSV, specifically vaccine development and improvement of RSV diagnostics.
PMCID: PMC3188560  PMID: 21998661
6.  A Ubiquitin Independent Degradation Pathway Utilized by a Hepatitis B Virus Envelope Protein to Limit Antigen Presentation 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e24477.
Hepatitis B virus envelope glycoproteins Large (L), Middle (M) and Small (S) are targets of the host cellular immune system. The extent to which the host recognizes viral antigens presented by infected cells is believed to play a decisive role in determining if an infection will be resolved or become chronic. As with other antigens, HBV envelope polypeptides must be degraded, presumably by cellular proteasomes, to be presented by the MHC I pathway. We have used M as a model to study this process and determine how ER quality control monitors these foreign polymeric proteins and disposes of them through the ER-associated degradation (ERAD) pathway. Using both wild type and mutant HBV M protein, we found that unlike most ERAD substrates, which require ubiquitination for retrotranslocation and degradation, the HBV M protein, which only contains two lysine residues, can undergo rapid and complete, ubiquitin independent, proteasome dependent degradation. The utilization of this pathway had a functional consequence, since proteins degraded through it, were poorly presented via MHC I. To test the hypothesis that the level of ubiquitination, independent of protein degradation, controls the level of antigen presentation, we inserted two additional lysines into both the wild type and mutant M protein. Amazingly, while the addition of the lysine residues dramatically increased the level of ubiquitination, it did not alter the rate of degradation. However and remarkably, the increased ubiquitination was associated with a dramatic increase in the level of antigen presentation. In conclusion, using the HBV surface protein as a model, we have identified a novel ubiquitin independent degradation pathway and determined that this pathway can have implications for antigen presentation and potentially viral pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3182176  PMID: 21969857
7.  Dynamics of In Vitro Fitness Recovery of HIV-1 ▿  
Journal of Virology  2010;85(4):1861-1870.
The study on the evolutionary consequences of an RNA viral population's fluctuations can be approached by in vitro experiments. This work describes the fitness recovery of HIV-1 after 20 large-population passages in 10 debilitated clones. The serial passages promoted an increase in viral fitness. In addition, we detected a significant number of mutations fixed in the complete genome consensus sequence of the final viral populations. Among the mutations, events of convergent evolution with important phenotypic characteristics occurred in several independent clones. One common change, V35I, in the nuclear localization signal of the p17 protein appeared in four viruses of three different lineages. Other common alterations mapped in position E196K of the reverse transcriptase or in position S316K of the V3 loop of the gp120 residue that is associated with the X4/R5 phenotype. Together with this mutational analysis, we studied the quasispecies heterogeneity of the initial and final viruses, revealing that fitness increase correlated with an augmentation in the genetic heterogeneity of viral quasispecies. However, while heterogeneity was mostly composed of synonymous (dS) mutations in the first 10 passages performed, at passage 21 it switched to nonsynonymous (dN) substitutions, with significant differences in dN − dS values between passages 11 and 21. In summary, the HIV-1 in vitro fitness recovery depicts a multiphase process occurring first by generation of mutations followed by fixation of the beneficial ones, depicting a classical Darwinian process.
PMCID: PMC3028893  PMID: 21106747
8.  Initial Fitness Recovery of HIV-1 Is Associated with Quasispecies Heterogeneity and Can Occur without Modifications in the Consensus Sequence 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(4):e10319.
Fitness recovery of HIV-1 “in vitro” was studied using viral clones that had their fitness decreased as a result of plaque-to-plaque passages.
Principal Findings
After ten large population passages, the viral populations showed an average increase of fitness, although with wide variations among clones. While 5 clones showed significant fitness increases, 3 clones showed increases that were only marginally significant (p<0.1), and 4 clones did not show any change. Fitness recovery was not accompanied by an increase in p24 production, but was associated with an increase in viral titer. Few mutations (an average of 2 mutations per genome) were detected in the consensus nucleotide sequence of the entire genome in all viral populations. Five of the populations did not fix any mutation, and three of them displayed marginally significant fitness increases, illustrating that fitness recovery can occur without detectable alterations of the consensus genomic sequence. The investigation of other possible viral factors associated with the initial steps of fitness recovery, showed that viral quasispecies heterogeneity increased between the initial clones and the passaged populations. A direct statistical correlation between viral heterogeneity and viral fitness was obtained.
Thus, the initial fitness recovery of debilitated HIV-1 clones was mediated by an increase in quasispecies heterogeneity. This observation, together with the invariance of the consensus sequence despite fitness increases demonstrates the relevance of quasispecies heterogeneity in the evolution of HIV-1 in cell culture.
PMCID: PMC2859943  PMID: 20436678
9.  Phylodynamics of HIV-1 Circulating Recombinant Forms 12_BF and 38_BF in Argentina and Uruguay 
Retrovirology  2010;7:22.
Although HIV-1 CRF12_BF and CRF38_BF are two epidemiologically important recombinant lineages circulating in Argentina and Uruguay, little is known about their population dynamics.
A total of 120 "CRF12_BF-like" and 20 "CRF38_BF-like" pol recombinant sequences collected in Argentina and Uruguay from 1997 to 2009 were subjected to phylogenetic and Bayesian coalescent-based analyses to estimate evolutionary and demographic parameters.
Phylogenetic analyses revealed that CRF12_BF viruses from Argentina and Uruguay constitute a single epidemic with multiple genetic exchanges among countries; whereas circulation of the CRF38_BF seems to be confined to Uruguay. The mean estimated substitution rate of CRF12_BF at pol gene (2.5 × 10-3 substitutions/site/year) was similar to that previously described for subtype B. According to our estimates, CRF12_BF and CRF38_BF originated at 1983 (1978-1988) and 1986 (1981-1990), respectively. After their emergence, the CRF12_BF and CRF38_BF epidemics seem to have experienced a period of rapid expansion with initial growth rates of around 1.2 year-1 and 0.9 year-1, respectively. Later, the rate of spread of these CRFs_BF seems to have slowed down since the mid-1990s.
Our results suggest that CRF12_BF and CRF38_BF viruses were generated during the 1980s, shortly after the estimated introduction of subtype F1 in South America (~1975-1980). After an initial phase of fast exponential expansion, the rate of spread of both CRFs_BF epidemics seems to have slowed down, thereby following a demographic pattern that resembles those previously reported for the HIV-1 epidemics in Brazil, USA, and Western Europe.
PMCID: PMC2854103  PMID: 20307282
10.  Resistance to Nucleoside Analog Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors Mediated by Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 p6 Protein 
Journal of Virology  2001;75(20):9644-9653.
Resistance of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) to antiretroviral agents results from target gene mutation within the pol gene, which encodes the viral protease, reverse transcriptase (RT), and integrase. We speculated that mutations in genes other that the drug target could lead to drug resistance. For this purpose, the p1-p6gag-p6pol region of HIV-1, placed immediately upstream of pol, was analyzed. This region has the potential to alter Pol through frameshift regulation (p1), through improved packaging of viral enzymes (p6Gag), or by changes in activation of the viral protease (p6Pol). Duplication of the proline-rich p6Gag PTAP motif, necessary for late viral cycle activities, was identified in plasma virus from 47 of 222 (21.2%) patients treated with nucleoside analog RT inhibitor (NRTI) antiretroviral therapy but was identified very rarely from drug-naïve individuals. Molecular clones carrying a 3-amino-acid duplication, APPAPP (transframe duplication SPTSPT in p6Pol), displayed a delay in protein maturation; however, they packaged a 34% excess of RT and exhibited a marked competitive growth advantage in the presence of NRTIs. This phenotype is reminiscent of the inoculum effect described in bacteriology, where a larger input, or a greater infectivity of an organism with a wild-type antimicrobial target, leads to escape from drug pressure and a higher MIC in vitro. Though the mechanism by which the PTAP region participates in viral maturation is not known, duplication of this proline-rich motif could improve assembly and packaging at membrane locations, resulting in the observed phenotype of increased infectivity and drug resistance.
PMCID: PMC114535  PMID: 11559796

Results 1-10 (10)