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1.  Subtype C Is Associated with Increased Vaginal Shedding of HIV-1 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2005;192(3):492-496.
The prevalence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)–1–infected cells and HIV-1 RNA levels in genital secretions and breast milk and the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV-1 were compared among subtypes A, C, and D in a Kenyan cohort. Pregnant women infected with subtype C were significantly more likely to shed HIV-1-infected vaginal cells than were those infected with subtype A or D (odds ratio [OR], 3.6 [95% confidence interval {CI}, 1.4–8.8]; P = .006). This relationship held after adjusting for age, CD4 cell count, and plasma HIV-1 RNA load (OR, 3.1 [95% CI, 1.1–8.6]; P = .03). These observations suggest that HIV-1 subtype influences mucosal shedding of HIV-1.
PMCID: PMC3387274  PMID: 15995964
2.  Longitudinal Analysis of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 RNA in Breast Milk and of Its Relationship to Infant Infection and Maternal Disease 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2003;187(5):741-747.
Transmission of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) via breast-feeding can occur throughout lactation. Defining both fluctuation in breast-milk virus level over time and how breast-milk virus correlates with mother-to-child transmission is important for establishing effective interventions. We quantified breast-milk HIV-1 RNA levels in serial samples collected from 275 women for up to 2 years after delivery. Higher maternal plasma virus load, lower maternal CD4 T cell count, and detection of HIV-1 DNA in maternal genital secretions were significantly associated with elevated breast-milk HIV-1 RNA. Within women who breast-fed, median virus load in colostrum/early milk was significantly higher than that in mature breast milk collected 14 days after delivery (P ≤ .004). Breast-feeding mothers who transmitted HIV-1 to their infants had both significantly higher breast-milk viral RNA throughout lactation and more-consistent viral shedding, compared with mothers who did not transmit HIV-1. In breast-feeding women, a 2-fold-increased risk of transmission was associated with every 10-fold increase in breast-milk virus load (95% confidence interval, 1.3–3.0; P < .001). These results indicate that the risk of infant infection from breast-feeding is influenced by breast-milk virus load, which is highest early after delivery.
PMCID: PMC3384731  PMID: 12599047
3.  Association of Levels of HIV-1–Infected Breast Milk Cells and Risk of Mother-to-Child Transmission 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2004;190(10):1880-1888.
Understanding how the level of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)–infected breast milk cells (BMCs) affects HIV transmission via breast-feeding can shed light on the mechanism of infection and aid in establishing effective interventions. The proportion of infected cells to total cells was measured in serial breast milk samples collected from 291 HIV-1–infected women in Nairobi, Kenya, by use of real-time DNA polymerase chain reaction amplification of BMCs. The number of infected BMCs per million cells was associated with levels of cell-free viral RNA in breast milk (R = .144; P = .032), levels of cell-free virus in blood plasma (R = .365; P < .001), and the detection of proviral DNA in cervical and vaginal secretions (P < .001 and P = .030, respectively). The number of infected BMCs per million cells was lower in colostrum or early milk than in mature milk (P < .001). Previous studies demonstrated that the concentration of BMCs varies throughout lactation, and we used these data to transform infected BMCs per million cells to infected BMCs per milliliter. The estimated concentration of infected BMCs per milliliter was higher in colostrum or early milk than in mature milk (P < .001). Each log10 increase in infected BMCs per milliliter was associated with a 3.19-fold–increased risk of transmission (P = 002), after adjustment for cell-free virus in plasma (hazard ratio [HR], 2.09; P = 03) and breast milk (HR, 1.01; P = 1.00). This suggests that infected BMCs may play a more important role in transmission of HIV via breast-feeding than does cell-free virus.
PMCID: PMC3384735  PMID: 15499546
4.  Workshop Summary: Novel Biomarkers for HIV Incidence Assay Development 
Reliable methods for measuring human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) incidence are a high priority for HIV prevention. They are particularly important to assess the population-level effectiveness of new prevention strategies, to evaluate the community-wide impact of ongoing prevention programs, and to assess whether a proposed prevention trial can be performed in a timely and cost-efficient manner in a particular population and setting. New incidence assays and algorithms that are accurate, rapid, cost-efficient, and can be performed on easily-obtained specimens are urgently needed. On May 4, 2011, the Division of AIDS (DAIDS), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), National Institutes of Health (NIH), sponsored a 1-day workshop to examine strategies for developing new assays to distinguish recent from chronic HIV infections. Participants included leading investigators, clinicians, public health experts, industry, regulatory specialists, and other stakeholders. Immune-based parameters, markers of viral sequence diversity, and other biomarkers such as telomere length were evaluated. Emerging nanotechnology and chip-based diagnostics, including algorithms for performing diverse assays on a single platform, were also reviewed. This report summarizes the presentations, panel discussions, and the consensus reached for pursuing the development of a new generation of HIV incidence assays.
PMCID: PMC3358102  PMID: 22206265
5.  ModuleOrganizer: detecting modules in families of transposable elements 
BMC Bioinformatics  2010;11:474.
Most known eukaryotic genomes contain mobile copied elements called transposable elements. In some species, these elements account for the majority of the genome sequence. They have been subject to many mutations and other genomic events (copies, deletions, captures) during transposition. The identification of these transformations remains a difficult issue. The study of families of transposable elements is generally founded on a multiple alignment of their sequences, a critical step that is adapted to transposons containing mostly localized nucleotide mutations. Many transposons that have lost their protein-coding capacity have undergone more complex rearrangements, needing the development of more complex methods in order to characterize the architecture of sequence variations.
In this study, we introduce the concept of a transposable element module, a flexible motif present in at least two sequences of a family of transposable elements and built on a succession of maximal repeats. The paper proposes an assembly method working on a set of exact maximal repeats of a set of sequences to create such modules. It results in a graphical view of sequences segmented into modules, a representation that allows a flexible analysis of the transformations that have occurred between them. We have chosen as a demonstration data set in depth analysis of the transposable element Foldback in Drosophila melanogaster. Comparison with multiple alignment methods shows that our method is more sensitive for highly variable sequences. The study of this family and the two other families AtREP21 and SIDER2 reveals new copies of very different sizes and various combinations of modules which show the potential of our method.
ModuleOrganizer is available on the Genouest bioinformatics center at
PMCID: PMC2955051  PMID: 20860790
6.  Amino-Acid Co-Variation in HIV-1 Gag Subtype C: HLA-Mediated Selection Pressure and Compensatory Dynamics 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(9):e12463.
Despite high potential for HIV-1 genetic variation, the emergence of some mutations is constrained by fitness costs, and may be associated with compensatory amino acid (AA) co-variation. To characterize the interplay between Cytotoxic T Lymphocyte (CTL)-mediated pressure and HIV-1 evolutionary pathways, we investigated AA co-variation in Gag sequences obtained from 449 South African individuals chronically infected with HIV-1 subtype C.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Individuals with CTL responses biased toward Gag presented lower viral loads than individuals with under-represented Gag-specific CTL responses. Using methods that account for founder effects and HLA linkage disequilibrium, we identified 35 AA sites under Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA)-restricted CTL selection pressure and 534 AA-to-AA interactions. Analysis of two-dimensional distances between co-varying residues revealed local stabilization mechanisms since 40% of associations involved neighboring residues. Key features of our co-variation analysis included sites with a high number of co-varying partners, such as HLA-associated sites, which had on average 55% more connections than other co-varying sites.
Clusters of co-varying AA around HLA-associated sites (especially at typically conserved sites) suggested that cooperative interactions act to preserve the local structural stability and protein function when CTL escape mutations occur. These results expose HLA-imprinted HIV-1 polymorphisms and their interlinked mutational paths in Gag that are likely due to opposite selective pressures from host CTL-mediated responses and viral fitness constraints.
PMCID: PMC2931691  PMID: 20824187
7.  Rare HLA Drive Additional HIV Evolution Compared to More Frequent Alleles 
HIV-1 can evolve HLA-specific escape variants in response to HLA-mediated cellular immunity. HLA alleles that are common in the host population may increase the frequency of such escape variants at the population level. When loss of viral fitness is caused by immune escape variation, these variants may revert upon infection of a new host who does not have the corresponding HLA allele. Furthermore, additional escape variants may appear in response to the nonconcordant HLA alleles. Because individuals with rare HLA alleles are less likely to be infected by a partner with concordant HLA alleles, viral populations infecting hosts with rare HLA alleles may undergo a greater amount of evolution than those infecting hosts with common alleles due to the loss of preexisting escape variants followed by new immune escape. This hypothesis was evaluated using maximum likelihood phylogenetic trees of each gene from 272 full-length HIV-1 sequences. Recent viral evolution, as measured by the external branch length, was found to be inversely associated with HLA frequency in nef (p < 0.02), env (p < 0.03), and pol (p ≤ 0.05), suggesting that rare HLA alleles provide a disproportionate force driving viral evolution compared to common alleles, likely due to the loss of preexisting escape variants during early stages postinfection.
PMCID: PMC2693345  PMID: 19327049
8.  CRISPI: a CRISPR interactive database 
Bioinformatics  2009;25(24):3317-3318.
Summary: The CRISPR genomic structures (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) form a family of repeats that is largely present in archaea and frequent in bacteria. On the basis of a formal model of CRISPR using very few parameters, a systematic study of all their occurrences in all available genomes of Archaea and Bacteria has been carried out. This has resulted in a relational database, CRISPI, which also includes a complete repertory of associated CRISPR-associated genes (CAS). A user-friendly web interface with many graphical tools and functions allows users to extract results, find CRISPR in personal sequences or calculate sequence similarity with spacers.
Availability: CRISPI free access at
PMCID: PMC2788928  PMID: 19846435
9.  Associations of Chemokine Receptor Polymorphisms With HIV-1 Mother-to-Child Transmission in Sub-Saharan Africa: Possible Modulation of Genetic Effects by Antiretrovirals 
HIV-1 mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) remains an important route of infection in sub-Saharan Africa.
Genetic variants in CCR5 promoter, CCR2, CX3CR1, and Stromal cell-derived factor-1 (SDF-1) genes were determined in 980 infants from sub-Saharan Africa using real-time polymerase chain reaction to determine association with MTCT.
In antiretroviral-naive mother–infant pairs (n = 637), CCR5 promoter polymorphisms at positions 59029: A allele vs. G/G [odds ratio (OR): 1.61, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.04 to 2.48; P = 0.032] and 59356: T allele vs. C/C (OR: 0.63, 95% CI: 0.41 to 0.96; P = 0.033) and CCR2-180: G allele vs. A/A (OR: 3.32, 95% CI: 1.13 to 9.73; P = 0.029) were associated with risk of MTCT. Treatment of HIV-1–infected mothers and infants with single-dose nevirapine or perinatal zidovudine altered but did not eliminate the association of genetic variants with MTCT.
CCR5 promoter, CCR2, and CX3CR1 polymorphisms were associated with risk of MTCT likely through their role as an HIV-1 coreceptor or by modulating the early immune response. Host genetics may continue to alter MTCT when short-course interventions that only partially suppress virus are used. These findings will need to be confirmed in validation cohorts with a large number of infected infants.
PMCID: PMC2748918  PMID: 18845960
mother-to-child transmission; HIV-1; chemokine/chemokine receptor genotypes; antiretrovirals
10.  Rare HLA Drive Additional HIV Evolution Compared to More Frequent Alleles 
HIV-1 can evolve HLA-specific escape variants in response to HLA-mediated cellular immunity. HLA alleles that are common in the host population may increase the frequency of such escape variants at the population level. When loss of viral fitness is caused by immune escape variation, these variants may revert upon infection of a new host who does not have the corresponding HLA allele. Furthermore, additional escape variants may appear in response to the nonconcordant HLA alleles. Because individuals with rare HLA alleles are less likely to be infected by a partner with concordant HLA alleles, viral populations infecting hosts with rare HLA alleles may undergo a greater amount of evolution than those infecting hosts with common alleles due to the loss of preexisting escape variants followed by new immune escape. This hypothesis was evaluated using maximum likelihood phylogenetic trees of each gene from 272 full-length HIV-1 sequences. Recent viral evolution, as measured by the external branch length, was found to be inversely associated with HLA frequency in nef (p<0.02), env (p<0.03), and pol (p≤0.05), suggesting that rare HLA alleles provide a disproportionate force driving viral evolution compared to common alleles, likely due to the loss of preexisting escape variants during early stages postinfection.
PMCID: PMC2693345  PMID: 19327049
11.  Central Role of Reverting Mutations in HLA Associations with Human Immunodeficiency Virus Set Point▿  
Journal of Virology  2008;82(17):8548-8559.
Much uncertainty still exists over what T-cell responses need to be induced by an effective human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) vaccine. Previous studies have hypothesized that the effective CD8+ T-cell responses are those driving the selection of escape mutations that reduce viral fitness and therefore revert posttransmission. In this study, we adopted a novel approach to define better the role of reverting escape mutations in immune control of HIV infection. This analysis of sequences from 710 study subjects with chronic C-clade HIV type 1 infection demonstrates the importance of mutations that impose a fitness cost in the control of viremia. Consistent with previous studies, the viral set points associated with each HLA-B allele are strongly correlated with the number of Gag-specific polymorphisms associated with the relevant HLA-B allele (r = −0.56, P = 0.0034). The viral set points associated with each HLA-C allele were also strongly correlated with the number of Pol-specific polymorphisms associated with the relevant HLA-C allele (r = −0.67, P = 0.0047). However, critically, both these correlations were dependent solely on the polymorphisms identified as reverting. Therefore, despite the inevitable evolution of viral escape, viremia can be controlled through the selection of mutations that are detrimental to viral fitness. The significance of these results is in highlighting the rationale for an HIV vaccine that can induce these broad responses.
PMCID: PMC2519667  PMID: 18596105
12.  Phylogenetic Dependency Networks: Inferring Patterns of CTL Escape and Codon Covariation in HIV-1 Gag 
PLoS Computational Biology  2008;4(11):e1000225.
HIV avoids elimination by cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTLs) through the evolution of escape mutations. Although there is mounting evidence that these escape pathways are broadly consistent among individuals with similar human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I alleles, previous population-based studies have been limited by the inability to simultaneously account for HIV codon covariation, linkage disequilibrium among HLA alleles, and the confounding effects of HIV phylogeny when attempting to identify HLA-associated viral evolution. We have developed a statistical model of evolution, called a phylogenetic dependency network, that accounts for these three sources of confounding and identifies the primary sources of selection pressure acting on each HIV codon. Using synthetic data, we demonstrate the utility of this approach for identifying sites of HLA-mediated selection pressure and codon evolution as well as the deleterious effects of failing to account for all three sources of confounding. We then apply our approach to a large, clinically-derived dataset of Gag p17 and p24 sequences from a multicenter cohort of 1144 HIV-infected individuals from British Columbia, Canada (predominantly HIV-1 clade B) and Durban, South Africa (predominantly HIV-1 clade C). The resulting phylogenetic dependency network is dense, containing 149 associations between HLA alleles and HIV codons and 1386 associations among HIV codons. These associations include the complete reconstruction of several recently defined escape and compensatory mutation pathways and agree with emerging data on patterns of epitope targeting. The phylogenetic dependency network adds to the growing body of literature suggesting that sites of escape, order of escape, and compensatory mutations are largely consistent even across different clades, although we also identify several differences between clades. As recent case studies have demonstrated, understanding both the complexity and the consistency of immune escape has important implications for CTL-based vaccine design. Phylogenetic dependency networks represent a major step toward systematically expanding our understanding of CTL escape to diverse populations and whole viral genes.
Author Summary
One of the enduring challenges facing HIV vaccine design is the remarkable rate of viral mutation and adaptation that limits the ability of the immune system to mount a lasting effective response. This rapid rate of mutation leads to extensive within- and between-host viral diversity that makes creation of a broadly reactive vaccine difficult. A first step in overcoming this challenge is to identify consistent patterns in viral adaptation. Recently, several studies have analyzed large groups of HIV-infected individuals and looked for correlations between HIV polymorphisms and the HLA class I alleles that restrict the cellular immune response. Here, we point out a limitation of previous approaches: correlations among HLA alleles and HIV codons lead to statistical confounding if not taken into consideration. In response, we develop two statistical models of evolution that explicitly represent stochastic selection pressure from multiple sources. After validating these models on synthetic data, we analyze the patterns of immune escape in a multicenter cohort of over 1000 individuals. Our results identify a dense network of interactions between HLA alleles and HIV codons, as well as among HIV codons, reflecting both a complexity and a promising consistency in the way that HIV adapts to the human immune response.
PMCID: PMC2579584  PMID: 19023406
13.  HLA Class I-Driven Evolution of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Subtype C Proteome: Immune Escape and Viral Load ▿  
Journal of Virology  2008;82(13):6434-6446.
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 ≤ 0.0009 for each comparison), suggesting the same ranking of fitness costs by genes associated with CTL escape. Significantly more HLA-B (χ2; P = 3.59 × 10−5) and HLA-C (χ2; P = 4.71 × 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.
PMCID: PMC2447109  PMID: 18434400
15.  Broad and Gag-Biased HIV-1 Epitope Repertoires Are Associated with Lower Viral Loads 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(1):e1424.
HLA class-I alleles differ in their ability to control HIV replication through cell-mediated immune responses. No consistent associations have been found between the breadth of Cytotoxic T Lymphocytes (CTL) responses and the control of HIV-1, and it is unknown whether the size or distribution of the viral proteome-wide epitope repertoire, i.e., the intrinsic ability to present fewer, more or specific viral epitopes, could affect clinical markers of disease progression.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We used an epitope prediction model to identify all epitope motifs in a set of 302 HIV-1 full-length proteomes according to each individual's HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigen) genotype. The epitope repertoire, i.e., the number of predicted epitopes per HIV-1 proteome, varied considerably between HLA alleles and thus among individual proteomes. In a subgroup of 270 chronically infected individuals, we found that lower viral loads and higher CD4 counts were associated with a larger predicted epitope repertoire. Additionally, in Gag and Rev only, more epitopes were restricted by alleles associated with low viral loads than by alleles associated with higher viral loads.
This comprehensive analysis puts forth the epitope repertoire as a mechanistic component of the multi-faceted HIV-specific CTL response. The favorable impact on markers of disease status of the propensity to present more HLA binding peptides and specific proteins gives impetus to vaccine design strategies that seek to elicit responses to a broad array of HIV-1 epitopes, and suggest a particular focus on Gag.
PMCID: PMC2170517  PMID: 18183304
16.  Compensatory Mutation Partially Restores Fitness and Delays Reversion of Escape Mutation within the Immunodominant HLA-B*5703-Restricted Gag Epitope in Chronic Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Infection▿  
Journal of Virology  2007;81(15):8346-8351.
HLA-B*5703 is associated with effective immune control in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection. Here we describe an escape mutation within the immunodominant HLA-B*5703-restricted epitope in chronic HIV-1 infection, KAFSPEVIPMF (Gag 162-172), and demonstrate that this mutation reduces viral replicative capacity. Reversion of this mutation following transmission to HLA-B*5703-negative recipients was delayed by the compensatory mutation S165N within the same epitope. These data may help explain the observed association between HLA-B*5703 and long-term control of viremia.
PMCID: PMC1951305  PMID: 17507468
17.  Extensive Intrasubtype Recombination in South African Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Subtype C Infections▿  
Journal of Virology  2007;81(9):4492-4500.
Recombinant human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) strains containing sequences from different viral genetic subtypes (intersubtype) and different lineages from within the same subtype (intrasubtype) have been observed. A consequence of recombination can be the distortion of the phylogenetic signal. Several intersubtype recombinants have been identified; however, less is known about the frequency of intrasubtype recombination. For this study, near-full-length HIV-1 subtype C genomes from 270 individuals were evaluated for the presence of intrasubtype recombination. A sliding window schema (window, 2 kb; step, 385 bp) was used to partition the aligned sequences. The Shimodaira-Hasegawa test detected significant topological incongruence in 99.6% of the comparisons of the maximum-likelihood trees generated from each sequence partition, a result that could be explained by recombination. Using RECOMBINE, we detected significant levels of recombination using five random subsets of the sequences. With a set of 23 topologically consistent sequences used as references, bootscanning followed by the interactive informative site test defined recombination breakpoints. Using two multiple-comparison correction methods, 47% of the sequences showed significant evidence of recombination in both analyses. Estimated evolutionary rates were revised from 0.51%/year (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.39 to 0.53%) with all sequences to 0.46%/year (95% CI, 0.38 to 0.48%) with the putative recombinants removed. The timing of the subtype C epidemic origin was revised from 1961 (95% CI, 1947 to 1962) with all sequences to 1958 (95% CI, 1949 to 1960) with the putative recombinants removed. Thus, intrasubtype recombinants are common within the subtype C epidemic and these impact analyses of HIV-1 evolution.
PMCID: PMC1900147  PMID: 17314156
18.  Control of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Is Associated with HLA-B*13 and Targeting of Multiple Gag-Specific CD8+ T-Cell Epitopes▿  
Journal of Virology  2007;81(7):3667-3672.
To better understand relationships between CD8+ T-cell specificity and the immune control of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), we analyzed the role of HLA-B*13, an allele associated with low viremia, in a cohort of 578 C clade-infected individuals in Durban, South Africa. Six novel B*13-restricted cytotoxic T lymphocyte epitopes were defined from analyses of 37 B*13-positive subjects, including three Gag epitopes. These B*13-restricted epitopes contribute to a broad Gag-specific CD8+ response that is associated with the control of viremia. These data are consistent with data from studies of other HLA-class I alleles associated with HIV control that have shown that the targeting of multiple Gag epitopes is associated with relative suppression of viremia.
PMCID: PMC1866034  PMID: 17251285
19.  Fitness Cost of Escape Mutations in p24 Gag in Association with Control of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 
Journal of Virology  2006;80(7):3617-3623.
Mutational escape by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) recognition is a major challenge for vaccine design. However, recent studies suggest that CTL escape may carry a sufficient cost to viral replicative capacity to facilitate subsequent immune control of a now attenuated virus. In order to examine how limitations can be imposed on viral escape, the epitope TSTLQEQIGW (TW10 [Gag residues 240 to 249]), presented by two HLA alleles associated with effective control of HIV, HLA-B*57 and -B*5801, was investigated. The in vitro experiments described here demonstrate that the dominant TW10 escape mutation, T242N, reduces viral replicative capacity. Structural analysis reveals that T242 plays a critical role in defining the start point and in stabilizing helix 6 within p24 Gag, ensuring that escape occurs at a significant cost. A very similar role is played by Thr-180, which is also an escape residue, but within a second p24 Gag epitope associated with immune control. Analysis of HIV type 1 gag in 206 B*57/5801-positive subjects reveals three principle alternative TW10-associated variants, and each is strongly linked to concomitant additional variants within p24 Gag, suggesting that functional constraints operate against their occurrence alone. The extreme conservation of p24 Gag and the predictable nature of escape variation resulting from these tight functional constraints indicate that p24 Gag may be a critical immunogen in vaccine design and suggest novel vaccination strategies to limit viral escape options from such epitopes.
PMCID: PMC1440414  PMID: 16537629
20.  Validation of Performance of the Gen-Probe Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Viral Load Assay with Genital Swabs and Breast Milk Samples 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2002;40(11):3929-3937.
Human immunodeficiency type 1 (HIV-1) continues to spread at an alarming rate. The virus may be transmitted through blood, genital secretions, and breast milk, and higher levels of systemic virus in the index case, as measured by plasma RNA viral load, have been shown to correlate with increased risk of transmitting HIV-1 both vertically and sexually. Less is known about the correlation between transmission and HIV-1 levels in breast milk or genital secretions, in part because reliable quantitative assays to detect HIV-1 in these fluids are not available. Here we show that the Gen-Probe HIV-1 viral load assay can be used to accurately quantify viral load in expressed breast milk and in cervical and vaginal samples collected on swabs. Virus could be quantified from breast milk and swab samples spiked with known amounts of virus, including HIV-1 subtypes A, C, and D. As few as 10 copies of HIV-1 RNA could be detected above background threshold levels in ≥77% of assays performed with spiked breast milk supernatants and mock swabs. In genital swab samples from HIV-1-infected women, similar levels of HIV-1 RNA were consistently detected in duplicate swabs taken from the same woman on the same clinic visit, suggesting that the RNA values from a single swab sample can be used to measure genital viral load.
PMCID: PMC139629  PMID: 12409354
21.  Maternal SDF1 3′A Polymorphism Is Associated with Increased Perinatal Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Transmission 
Journal of Virology  2000;74(12):5736-5739.
Genetic polymorphisms in chemokine and chemokine receptor genes influence susceptibility to human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection and disease progression, but little is known regarding the association between these allelic variations and the ability of the host to transmit virus. In this study, we show that the maternal heterozygous SDF1 genotype (SDF1 3′A/wt) is associated with perinatal transmission of HIV-1 (risk ratio [RR], 1.8; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.0 to 3.3) and particularly postnatal breastmilk transmission (RR, 3.1; 95% CI, 1.1 to 8.6). In contrast, the infant SDF1 genotype had no effect on mother-to-infant transmission. These data suggest that SDF1, which is a ligand for the T-tropic HIV-1 coreceptor CXCR4, may affect the ability of a mother to transmit the virus to her infant. This suggests that a genetic polymorphism in a gene encoding a chemokine receptor ligand may be associated with increased infectivity of the index case and highlights the importance of considering transmission as well as clinical outcome in designing chemokine-based therapies for HIV-1.
PMCID: PMC112064  PMID: 10823884

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