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author:("salem, Marco")
1.  Phylodynamic Analysis of Clinical and Environmental Vibrio cholerae Isolates from Haiti Reveals Diversification Driven by Positive Selection 
mBio  2014;5(6):e01824-14.
Phylodynamic analysis of genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data is a powerful tool to investigate underlying evolutionary processes of bacterial epidemics. The method was applied to investigate a collection of 65 clinical and environmental isolates of Vibrio cholerae from Haiti collected between 2010 and 2012. Characterization of isolates recovered from environmental samples identified a total of four toxigenic V. cholerae O1 isolates, four non-O1/O139 isolates, and a novel nontoxigenic V. cholerae O1 isolate with the classical tcpA gene. Phylogenies of strains were inferred from genome-wide SNPs using coalescent-based demographic models within a Bayesian framework. A close phylogenetic relationship between clinical and environmental toxigenic V. cholerae O1 strains was observed. As cholera spread throughout Haiti between October 2010 and August 2012, the population size initially increased and then fluctuated over time. Selection analysis along internal branches of the phylogeny showed a steady accumulation of synonymous substitutions and a progressive increase of nonsynonymous substitutions over time, suggesting diversification likely was driven by positive selection. Short-term accumulation of nonsynonymous substitutions driven by selection may have significant implications for virulence, transmission dynamics, and even vaccine efficacy.
Cholera, a dehydrating diarrheal disease caused by toxigenic strains of the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, emerged in 2010 in Haiti, a country where there were no available records on cholera over the past 100 years. While devastating in terms of morbidity and mortality, the outbreak provided a unique opportunity to study the evolutionary dynamics of V. cholerae and its environmental presence. The present study expands on previous work and provides an in-depth phylodynamic analysis inferred from genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphisms of clinical and environmental strains from dispersed geographic settings in Haiti over a 2-year period. Our results indicate that even during such a short time scale, V. cholerae in Haiti has undergone evolution and diversification driven by positive selection, which may have implications for understanding the global clinical and epidemiological patterns of the disease. Furthermore, the continued presence of the epidemic strain in Haitian aquatic environments has implications for transmission.
PMCID: PMC4278535  PMID: 25538191
2.  Anti-α4 Antibody Treatment Blocks Virus Traffic to the Brain and Gut Early, and Stabilizes CNS Injury Late in Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(12):e1004533.
Four SIV-infected monkeys with high plasma virus and CNS injury were treated with an anti-α4 blocking antibody (natalizumab) once a week for three weeks beginning on 28 days post-infection (late). Infection in the brain and gut were quantified, and neuronal injury in the CNS was assessed by MR spectroscopy, and compared to controls with AIDS and SIV encephalitis. Treatment resulted in stabilization of ongoing neuronal injury (NAA/Cr by 1H MRS), and decreased numbers of monocytes/macrophages and productive infection (SIV p28+, RNA+) in brain and gut. Antibody treatment of six SIV infected monkeys at the time of infection (early) for 3 weeks blocked monocyte/macrophage traffic and infection in the CNS, and significantly decreased leukocyte traffic and infection in the gut. SIV – RNA and p28 was absent in the CNS and the gut. SIV DNA was undetectable in brains of five of six early treated macaques, but proviral DNA in guts of treated and control animals was equivalent. Early treated animals had low-to-no plasma LPS and sCD163. These results support the notion that monocyte/macrophage traffic late in infection drives neuronal injury and maintains CNS viral reservoirs and lesions. Leukocyte traffic early in infection seeds the CNS with virus and contributes to productive infection in the gut. Leukocyte traffic early contributes to gut pathology, bacterial translocation, and activation of innate immunity.
Author Summary
To determine whether ongoing cell traffic is required for SIV-associated tissue damage, we blocked monocyte and T lymphocyte traffic to the brain and gut during a) ongoing infection or, b) at the time of infection. When animals were treated at four weeks post infection (late), once significant neuronal injury and accumulation of infected macrophages had already occurred, neuronal injury was stabilized, and CNS infection and the number of CNS lesions decreased. In the gut, there were significantly fewer productively infected cells and decreased inflammatory macrophages post treatment. Treatment at the time of infection (early) blocked infection of the CNS (SIV –DNA, RNA, or protein) and macrophage accumulation. In the gut, treatment at the time of infection blocked productive infection (SIV –RNA and protein) but not SIV –DNA. Interestingly, with treatment at the time of infection, there was no evidence of microbial translocation or elevated sCD163 in plasma, demonstrating that leukocyte traffic early plays a role in damage to gut tissues. Overall, these data point to the role of monocyte traffic and possibly lymphocytes to the CNS and leukocyte traffic to the gut to establish and maintain viral reservoirs. They underscore the role of monocyte/macrophage traffic and accumulation in the CNS for neuronal injury and maintenance of CNS lesions.
PMCID: PMC4263764  PMID: 25502752
3.  High-Frequency Rugose Exopolysaccharide Production by Vibrio cholerae Strains Isolated in Haiti 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112853.
In October, 2010, epidemic cholera was reported for the first time in Haiti in over 100 years. Establishment of cholera endemicity in Haiti will be dependent in large part on the continued presence of toxigenic V. cholerae O1 in aquatic reservoirs. The rugose phenotype of V. cholerae, characterized by exopolysaccharide production that confers resistance to environmental stress, is a potential contributor to environmental persistence. Using a microbiologic medium promoting high-frequency conversion of smooth to rugose (S–R) phenotype, 80 (46.5%) of 172 V. cholerae strains isolated from clinical and environmental sources in Haiti were able to convert to a rugose phenotype. Toxigenic V. cholerae O1 strains isolated at the beginning of the epidemic (2010) were significantly less likely to shift to a rugose phenotype than clinical strains isolated in 2012/2013, or environmental strains. Frequency of rugose conversion was influenced by incubation temperature and time. Appearance of the biofilm produced by a Haitian clinical rugose strain (altered biotype El Tor HC16R) differed from that of a typical El Tor rugose strain (N16961R) by confocal microscopy. On whole-genome SNP analysis, there was no phylogenetic clustering of strains showing an ability to shift to a rugose phenotype. Our data confirm the ability of Haitian clinical (and environmental) strains to shift to a protective rugose phenotype, and suggest that factors such as temperature influence the frequency of transition to this phenotype.
PMCID: PMC4229229  PMID: 25390633
4.  Longitudinal analysis of intra-host simian immunodeficiency virus recombination in varied tissues of the rhesus macaque model for neuroAIDS 
The Journal of General Virology  2013;94(Pt 11):2469-2479.
Human immunodeficiency virus intra-host recombination has never been studied in vivo both during early infection and throughout disease progression. The CD8-depleted rhesus macaque model of neuroAIDS was used to investigate the impact of recombination from early infection up to the onset of neuropathology in animals inoculated with a simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) swarm. Several lymphoid and non-lymphoid tissues were collected longitudinally at 21 days post-infection (p.i.), 61 days p.i. and necropsy (75–118 days p.i.) from four macaques that developed SIV-encephalitis or meningitis, as well as from two animals euthanized at 21 days p.i. The number of recombinant sequences and breakpoints in different tissues and over time from each primate were compared. Breakpoint locations were mapped onto predicted RNA and protein secondary structures. Recombinants were found at each time point and in each primate as early as 21 days p.i. No association was found between recombination rates and specific tissue of origin. Several identical breakpoints were identified in sequences derived from different tissues in the same primate and among different primates. Breakpoints predominantly mapped to unpaired nucleotides or pseudoknots in RNA secondary structures, and proximal to glycosylation sites and cysteine residues in protein sequences, suggesting selective advantage in the emergence of specific recombinant sequences. Results indicate that recombinant sequences can become fixed very early after infection with a heterogeneous viral swarm. Features of RNA and protein secondary structure appear to play a role in driving the production of recombinants and their selection in the rapid disease model of neuroAIDS.
PMCID: PMC3809109  PMID: 23963535
5.  Baseline CD4+ T Cell Counts Correlates with HIV-1 Synonymous Rate in HLA-B*5701 Subjects with Different Risk of Disease Progression 
PLoS Computational Biology  2014;10(9):e1003830.
HLA-B*5701 is the host factor most strongly associated with slow HIV-1 disease progression, although risk of progression may vary among patients carrying this allele. The interplay between HIV-1 evolutionary rate variation and risk of progression to AIDS in HLA-B*5701 subjects was studied using longitudinal viral sequences from high-risk progressors (HRPs) and low-risk progressors (LRPs). Posterior distributions of HIV-1 genealogies assuming a Bayesian relaxed molecular clock were used to estimate the absolute rates of nonsynonymous and synonymous substitutions for different set of branches. Rates of viral evolution, as well as in vitro viral replication capacity assessed using a novel phenotypic assay, were correlated with various clinical parameters. HIV-1 synonymous substitution rates were significantly lower in LRPs than HRPs, especially for sets of internal branches. The viral population infecting LRPs was also characterized by a slower increase in synonymous divergence over time. This pattern did not correlate to differences in viral fitness, as measured by in vitro replication capacity, nor could be explained by differences among subjects in T cell activation or selection pressure. Interestingly, a significant inverse correlation was found between baseline CD4+ T cell counts and mean HIV-1 synonymous rate (which is proportional to the viral replication rate) along branches representing viral lineages successfully propagating through time up to the last sampled time point. The observed lower replication rate in HLA-B*5701 subjects with higher baseline CD4+ T cell counts provides a potential model to explain differences in risk of disease progression among individuals carrying this allele.
Author Summary
The clinical course of HIV-1 infection is characterized by considerable variability in the rate of progression to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) among patients with different genetic background. The human leukocyte antigen (HLA) B*5701 is the host factor most strongly associated with slow HIV-1 disease progression. However, the risk of progression to AIDS also varies among patients carrying this specific allele. To gain a better understanding of the interplay between HIV-1 evolutionary rate variation and risk of disease progression, we followed untreated HLA-B*5701 subjects from early infection up to the onset of AIDS. The analysis of longitudinal viral sequences with advanced computational biology techniques based on coalescent Bayesian methods showed a highly significant association between lower synonymous substitution rates and higher baseline CD4+ T cell counts in HLA-B*5701 subjects. The finding provides a potential model to explain differences in risk of disease progression among individuals carrying this allele and might have translational impact on clinical practice, since synonymous rates, which are proportional to in vivo viral replication rates, could be used as a novel evolutionary marker of disease progression.
PMCID: PMC4154639  PMID: 25187947
6.  HIV-Associated Neuropathogenesis: A Systems Biology Perspective for Modeling and Therapy 
Bio Systems  2014;119:53-61.
Despite the development of powerful antiretroviral drugs, HIV-1 associated neurological disorders (HAND) will affect approximately half of those infected with HIV-1. Combined anti-retroviral therapy (cART) targets viral replication and increases T-cell counts, but it does not always control macrophage polarization, brain infection or inflammation. Moreover, it remains difficult to identify those at risk for HAND. New therapies that focus on modulating host immune response by making use of biological pathways could prove to be more effective than cART for the treatment of neuroAIDS. Additionally, while numerous HAND biomarkers have been suggested, they are of little use without methods for appropriate data integration and a systems-level interpretation. Machine learning, could be used to develop multifactorial computational models that provide clinicians and researchers with the ability to identify which factors (in what combination and relative importance) are considered important to outcome.
PMCID: PMC4112533  PMID: 24732754
HIV; brain; neuropathogenesis; macrophages; microglia; microRNA; data integration; machine learning
7.  The Effect of Malnutrition on Norovirus Infection 
mBio  2014;5(2):e01032-13.
Human noroviruses are the primary cause of severe childhood diarrhea in the United States, and they are of particular clinical importance in pediatric populations in the developing world. A major contributing factor to the general increased severity of infectious diseases in these regions is malnutrition—nutritional status shapes host immune responses and the composition of the host intestinal microbiota, both of which can influence the outcome of pathogenic infections. In terms of enteric norovirus infections, mucosal immunity and intestinal microbes are likely to contribute to the infection outcome in substantial ways. We probed these interactions using a murine model of malnutrition and murine norovirus infection. Our results reveal that malnutrition is associated with more severe norovirus infections as defined by weight loss, impaired control of norovirus infections, reduced antiviral antibody responses, loss of protective immunity, and enhanced viral evolution. Moreover, the microbiota is dramatically altered by malnutrition. Interestingly, murine norovirus infection also causes changes in the host microbial composition within the intestine but only in healthy mice. In fact, the infection-associated microbiota resembles the malnutrition-associated microbiota. Collectively, these findings represent an extensive characterization of a new malnutrition model of norovirus infection that will ultimately facilitate elucidation of the nutritionally regulated host parameters that predispose to more severe infections and impaired memory immune responses. In a broad sense, this model may provide insight into the reduced efficacy of oral vaccines in malnourished hosts and the potential for malnourished individuals to act as reservoirs of emergent virus strains.
Malnourished children in developing countries are susceptible to more severe infections than their healthy counterparts, in particular enteric infections that cause diarrhea. In order to probe the effects of malnutrition on an enteric infection in a well-controlled system devoid of other environmental and genetic variability, we studied norovirus infection in a mouse model. We have revealed that malnourished mice develop more severe norovirus infections and they fail to mount effective memory immunity to a secondary challenge. This is of particular importance because malnourished children generally mount less effective immune responses to oral vaccines, and we can now use our new model system to probe the immunological basis of this impairment. We have also determined that noroviruses evolve more readily in the face of malnutrition. Finally, both norovirus infection and malnutrition independently alter the composition of the intestinal microbiota in substantial and overlapping ways.
PMCID: PMC3958801  PMID: 24595373
8.  A Single Early Introduction of HIV-1 Subtype B into Central America Accounts for Most Current Cases 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(13):7463-7470.
Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) variants show considerable geographical separation across the world, but there is limited information from Central America. We provide the first detailed investigation of the genetic diversity and molecular epidemiology of HIV-1 in six Central American countries. Phylogenetic analysis was performed on 625 HIV-1 pol gene sequences collected between 2002 and 2010 in Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and Belize. Published sequences from neighboring countries (n = 57) and the rest of the world (n = 740) were included as controls. Maximum likelihood methods were used to explore phylogenetic relationships. Bayesian coalescence-based methods were used to time HIV-1 introductions. Nearly all (98.9%) Central American sequences were of subtype B. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that 437 (70%) sequences clustered within five significantly supported monophyletic clades formed essentially by Central American sequences. One clade contained 386 (62%) sequences from all six countries; the other four clades were smaller and more country specific, suggesting discrete subepidemics. The existence of one large well-supported Central American clade provides evidence that a single introduction of HIV-1 subtype B in Central America accounts for most current cases. An introduction during the early phase of the HIV-1 pandemic may explain its epidemiological success. Moreover, the smaller clades suggest a subsequent regional spread related to specific transmission networks within each country.
PMCID: PMC3700274  PMID: 23616665
9.  Empirical validation of viral quasispecies assembly algorithms: state-of-the-art and challenges 
Scientific Reports  2013;3:2837.
Next generation sequencing (NGS) is superseding Sanger technology for analysing intra-host viral populations, in terms of genome length and resolution. We introduce two new empirical validation data sets and test the available viral population assembly software. Two intra-host viral population ‘quasispecies’ samples (type-1 human immunodeficiency and hepatitis C virus) were Sanger-sequenced, and plasmid clone mixtures at controlled proportions were shotgun-sequenced using Roche's 454 sequencing platform. The performance of different assemblers was compared in terms of phylogenetic clustering and recombination with the Sanger clones. Phylogenetic clustering showed that all assemblers captured a proportion of the most divergent lineages, but none were able to provide a high precision/recall tradeoff. Estimated variant frequencies mildly correlated with the original. Given the limitations of currently available algorithms identified by our empirical validation, the development and exploitation of additional data sets is needed, in order to establish an efficient framework for viral population reconstruction using NGS.
PMCID: PMC3789152  PMID: 24089188
10.  The Intra-Host Evolutionary and Population Dynamics of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1: A Phylogenetic Perspective 
Infectious Disease Reports  2013;5(Suppl 1):e3.
The intra-host evolutionary and population dynamics of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), the cause of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, have been the focus of one of the most extensive study efforts in the field of molecular evolution over the past three decades. As HIV-1 is among the fastest mutating organisms known, viral sequence data sampled over time from infected patients can provide, through phylogenetic analysis, significant insights about the tempo and mode of evolutionary processes shaped by complex interaction with the host milieu. Five main aspects are discussed: the patterns of HIV-1 intra-host diversity and divergence over time in relation to different phases of disease progression; the impact of selection on the temporal structure of HIV-1 intra-host genealogies inferred from longitudinally sampled viral sequences; HIV-1 intra-host sub-population structure; the potential relationship between viral evolutionary rate and disease progression and the central evolutionary role played by recombination occurring in super-infected cells.
PMCID: PMC3892624  PMID: 24470967
HIV-1; phylogenetic analysis; intrahost evolution; population dynamics
11.  Molecular Epidemiology of Community-Associated Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in the genomic era: a Cross-Sectional Study 
Scientific Reports  2013;3:1902.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a leading cause of healthcare-associated infections and significant contributor to healthcare cost. Community-associated-MRSA (CA-MRSA) strains have now invaded healthcare settings. A convenience sample of 97 clinical MRSA isolates was obtained from seven hospitals during a one-week period in 2010. We employed a framework integrating Staphylococcus protein A typing and full-genome next-generation sequencing. Single nucleotide polymorphisms were analyzed using phylodynamics. Twenty-six t002, 48 t008, and 23 other strains were identified. Phylodynamic analysis of 30 t008 strains showed ongoing exponential growth of the effective population size the basic reproductive number (R0) ranging from 1.24 to 1.34. No evidence of hospital clusters was identified. The lack of phylogeographic clustering suggests that community introduction is a major contributor to emergence of CA-MRSA strains within hospitals. Phylodynamic analysis provides a powerful framework to investigate MRSA transmission between the community and hospitals, an understanding of which is essential for control.
PMCID: PMC3664956  PMID: 23712667
12.  Efficient transmission and persistence of low-frequency SIVmac251 variants in CD8-depleted rhesus macaques with different neuropathology 
The Journal of General Virology  2012;93(Pt 5):925-938.
Infection of CD8-depleted rhesus macaques with the genetically heterogeneous simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)mac251 viral swarm provides a rapid-disease model for simian acquired immune deficiency syndrome and SIV-encephalitis (SIVE). The objective was to evaluate how the diversity of the swarm influences the initial seeding of the infection that may potentially affect disease progression. Plasma, lymphoid and non-lymphoid (brain and lung) tissues were collected from two infected macaques euthanized at 21 days post-infection (p.i.), as well as longitudinal specimens and post-mortem tissues from four macaques followed throughout the infection. About 1300 gp120 viral sequences were obtained from the infecting SIVmac251 swarm and the macaques longitudinal and post-mortem samples. Phylogenetic and amino acid signature pattern analyses were carried out to assess frequency, transmission dynamics and persistence of specific viral clusters. Although no significant reduction in viral heterogeneity was found early in infection (21 days p.i.), transmission and replication of SIV variants was not entirely random. In particular, two distinct motifs under-represented (<4 %) in the infecting swarm were found at high frequencies (up to 14 %) in all six macaques as early as 21 days p.i. Moreover, a macrophage tropic variant not detected in the viral swarm (<0.3 %) was present at high frequency (29–100 %) in sequences derived from the brain of two macaques with meningitis or severe SIVE. This study demonstrates the highly efficient transmission and persistence in vivo of multiple low frequency SIVmac251 founder variants, characterized by specific gp120 motifs that may be linked to pathogenesis in the rapid-disease model of neuroAIDS.
PMCID: PMC3541805  PMID: 22302881
13.  Exploring the Molecular Epidemiology and Evolutionary Dynamics of Influenza A Virus in Taiwan 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61957.
The evolution and population dynamics of human influenza in Taiwan is a microcosm of the viruses circulating worldwide, which has not yet been studied in detail. We collected 343 representative full genome sequences of human influenza A viruses isolated in Taiwan between 1979 and 2009. Phylogenetic and antigenic data analysis revealed that H1N1 and H3N2 viruses consistently co-circulated in Taiwan, although they were characterized by different temporal dynamics and degrees of genetic diversity. Moreover, influenza A viruses of both subtypes underwent internal gene reassortment involving all eight segments of the viral genome, some of which also occurred during non-epidemic periods. The patterns of gene reassortment were different in the two subtypes. The internal genes of H1N1 viruses moved as a unit, separately from the co-evolving HA and NA genes. On the other hand, the HA and NA genes of H3N2 viruses tended to segregate consistently with different sets of internal gene segments. In particular, as reassortment occurred, H3HA always segregated as a group with the PB1, PA and M genes, while N2NA consistently segregated with PB2 and NP. Finally, the analysis showed that new phylogenetic lineages and antigenic variants emerging in summer were likely to be the progenitors of the epidemic strains in the following season. The synchronized seasonal patterns and high genetic diversity of influenza A viruses observed in Taiwan make possible to capture the evolutionary dynamic and epidemiological rules governing antigenic drift and reassortment and may serve as a “warning” system that recapitulates the global epidemic.
PMCID: PMC3628583  PMID: 23613982
14.  Combination of Immune and Viral Factors Distinguishes Low-Risk versus High-Risk HIV-1 Disease Progression in HLA-B*5701 Subjects 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(18):9802-9816.
HLA-B*5701 is the host factor most strongly associated with slow HIV-1 disease progression, although rates can vary within this group. Underlying mechanisms are not fully understood but likely involve both immunological and virological dynamics. The present study investigated HIV-1 in vivo evolution and epitope-specific CD8+ T cell responses in six HLA-B*5701 patients who had not received antiretroviral treatment, monitored from early infection for up to 7 years. The subjects were classified as high-risk progressors (HRPs) or low-risk progressors (LRPs) based on baseline CD4+ T cell counts. Dynamics of HIV-1 Gag p24 evolution and multifunctional CD8+ T cell responses were evaluated by high-resolution phylogenetic analysis and polychromatic flow cytometry, respectively. In all subjects, substitutions occurred more frequently in flanking regions than in HLA-B*5701-restricted epitopes. In LRPs, p24 sequence diversity was significantly lower; sequences exhibited a higher degree of homoplasy and more constrained mutational patterns than HRPs. The HIV-1 intrahost evolutionary rate was also lower in LRPs and followed a strict molecular clock, suggesting neutral genetic drift rather than positive selection. Additionally, polyfunctional CD8+ T cell responses, particularly to TW10 and QW9 epitopes, were more robust in LRPs, who also showed significantly higher interleukin-2 (IL-2) production in early infection. Overall, the findings indicate that HLA-B*5701 patients with higher CD4 counts at baseline have a lower risk of HIV-1 disease progression because of the interplay between specific HLA-linked immune responses and the rate and mode of viral evolution. The study highlights the power of a multidisciplinary approach, integrating high-resolution evolutionary and immunological data, to understand mechanisms underlying HIV-1 pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3446568  PMID: 22761389
15.  Unexpected Maintenance of Hepatitis C Viral Diversity following Liver Transplantation 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(16):8432-8439.
Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection can lead to liver cirrhosis in up to 20% of individuals, often requiring liver transplantation. Although the new liver is known to be rapidly reinfected, the dynamics and source of the reinfecting virus(es) are unclear, resulting in some confusion concerning the relationship between clinical outcome and viral characteristics. To clarify the dynamics of liver reinfection, longitudinal serum viral samples from 10 transplant patients were studied. Part of the E1/E2 region was sequenced, and advanced phylogenetic analysis methods were used in a multiparameter analysis to determine the history and ancestry of reinfecting lineages. Our results demonstrated the complexity of HCV evolutionary dynamics after liver transplantation, in which a large diverse population of viruses is transmitted and maintained for months to years. As many as 30 independent lineages in a single patient were found to reinfect the new liver. Several later posttransplant lineages were more closely related to older pretransplant viruses than to viruses detected immediately after transplantation. Although our data are consistent with a number of interpretations, the persistence of high viral genetic variation over long periods of time requires an active mechanism. We discuss possible scenarios, including frequency-dependent selection or variation in selective pressure among viral subpopulations, i.e., the population structure. The latter hypothesis, if correct, could have relevance to the success of newer direct-acting antiviral therapies.
PMCID: PMC3421713  PMID: 22623804
16.  HIV-1 Nef in Macrophage-Mediated Disease Pathogenesis 
Combined anti-retroviral therapy (cART) has significantly reduced the number of AIDS-associated illnesses and changed the course of HIV-1 disease in developed countries. Despite the ability of cART to maintain high CD4+ T-cell counts, a number of macrophage-mediated diseases can still occur in HIV-infected subjects. These diseases include lymphoma, metabolic diseases, and HIV-associated neurological disorders. Within macrophages, the HIV-1 regulatory protein “Nef” can modulate surface receptors, interact with signaling pathways, and promote specific environments that contribute to each of these pathologies. Moreover, genetic variation in Nef may also guide the macrophage response. Herein, we review findings relating to the Nef–macrophage interaction and how this relationship contributes to disease pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3544535  PMID: 23215766
cardiovascular disease; dementia; HIV-1 lymphoma; macrophages; Nef
17.  QuRe: software for viral quasispecies reconstruction from next-generation sequencing data 
Bioinformatics  2011;28(1):132-133.
Summary: Next-generation sequencing (NGS) is an ideal framework for the characterization of highly variable pathogens, with a deep resolution able to capture minority variants. However, the reconstruction of all variants of a viral population infecting a host is a challenging task for genome regions larger than the average NGS read length. QuRe is a program for viral quasispecies reconstruction, specifically developed to analyze long read (>100 bp) NGS data. The software performs alignments of sequence fragments against a reference genome, finds an optimal division of the genome into sliding windows based on coverage and diversity and attempts to reconstruct all the individual sequences of the viral quasispecies—along with their prevalence—using a heuristic algorithm, which matches multinomial distributions of distinct viral variants overlapping across the genome division. QuRe comes with a built-in Poisson error correction method and a post-reconstruction probabilistic clustering, both parameterized on given error rates in homopolymeric and non-homopolymeric regions.
Availability: QuRe is platform-independent, multi-threaded software implemented in Java. It is distributed under the GNU General Public License, available at
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC3244773  PMID: 22088846
18.  Prediction of R5, X4, and R5X4 HIV-1 Coreceptor Usage with Evolved Neural Networks 
The HIV-1 genome is highly heterogeneous. This variation affords the virus a wide range of molecular properties, including the ability to infect cell types, such as macrophages and lymphocytes, expressing different chemokine receptors on the cell surface. In particular, R5 HIV-1 viruses use CCR5 as a coreceptor for viral entry, X4 viruses use CXCR4, whereas some viral strains, known as R5X4 or D-tropic, have the ability to utilize both coreceptors. X4 and R5X4 viruses are associated with rapid disease progression to AIDS. R5X4 viruses differ in that they have yet to be characterized by the examination of the genetic sequence of HIV-1 alone. In this study, a series of experiments was performed to evaluate different strategies of feature selection and neural network optimization. We demonstrate the use of artificial neural networks trained via evolutionary computation to predict viral coreceptor usage. The results indicate the identification of R5X4 viruses with a predictive accuracy of 75.5 percent.
PMCID: PMC3523352  PMID: 18451438
Computational intelligence; evolutionary computation; artificial neural networks; HIV; AIDS; phenotype prediction; tropism; dual-tropic viruses
19.  High-resolution deep sequencing reveals biodiversity, population structure, and persistence of HIV-1 quasispecies within host ecosystems 
Retrovirology  2012;9:108.
Deep sequencing provides the basis for analysis of biodiversity of taxonomically similar organisms in an environment. While extensively applied to microbiome studies, population genetics studies of viruses are limited. To define the scope of HIV-1 population biodiversity within infected individuals, a suite of phylogenetic and population genetic algorithms was applied to HIV-1 envelope hypervariable domain 3 (Env V3) within peripheral blood mononuclear cells from a group of perinatally HIV-1 subtype B infected, therapy-naïve children.
Biodiversity of HIV-1 Env V3 quasispecies ranged from about 70 to 270 unique sequence clusters across individuals. Viral population structure was organized into a limited number of clusters that included the dominant variants combined with multiple clusters of low frequency variants. Next generation viral quasispecies evolved from low frequency variants at earlier time points through multiple non-synonymous changes in lineages within the evolutionary landscape. Minor V3 variants detected as long as four years after infection co-localized in phylogenetic reconstructions with early transmitting viruses or with subsequent plasma virus circulating two years later.
Deep sequencing defines HIV-1 population complexity and structure, reveals the ebb and flow of dominant and rare viral variants in the host ecosystem, and identifies an evolutionary record of low-frequency cell-associated viral V3 variants that persist for years. Bioinformatics pipeline developed for HIV-1 can be applied for biodiversity studies of virome populations in human, animal, or plant ecosystems.
PMCID: PMC3531307  PMID: 23244298
HIV-1 envelope V3; Biodiversity; Population structure; Quasispecies; Fitness; Pyrosequencing; Founder virus persistence; Most recent common ancestor
20.  Significant Genetic Heterogeneity of the SIVmac251 Viral Swarm Derived from Different Sources 
AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses  2011;27(12):1327-1332.
Infecting rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) with the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) is an established animal model of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) pathogenesis. Many studies have used various derivatives of the SIVmac251 viral swarm to investigate several aspects of the disease, including transmission, progression, response to vaccination, and SIV/HIV-associated neurological disorders. However, the lack of standardization of the infecting inoculum complicates comparative analyses. We investigated the genetic diversity and phylogenetic relationships of the 1991 animal-titered SIVmac251 swarm, the peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) passaged SIVmac251, and additional SIVmac251 sequences derived over the past 20 years. Significant sequence divergence and diversity were evident among the different viral sources. This finding highlights the importance of characterizing the exact source and genetic makeup of the infecting inoculum to achieve controlled experimental conditions and enable meaningful comparisons across studies.
PMCID: PMC3227245  PMID: 21524235
21.  Molecular Epidemiology of HIV Type 1 CRF02_AG in Cameroon and African Patients Living in Italy 
AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses  2011;27(11):1173-1182.
HIV-1 CRF02_AG accounts for >50% of infected individuals in Cameroon. CRF02_AG prevalence has been increasing both in Africa and Europe, particularly in Italy because of migrations from the sub-Saharan region. This study investigated the molecular epidemiology of CRF02_AG in Cameroon by employing Bayesian phylodynamics and analyzed the relationship between HIV-1 CRF02_AG isolates circulating in Italy and those prevalent in Africa to understand the link between the two epidemics. Among 291 Cameroonian reverse transcriptase sequences analyzed, about 70% clustered within three distinct clades, two of which shared a most recent common ancestor, all related to sequences from Western Africa. The major Cameroonian clades emerged during the mid-1970s and slowly spread during the next 30 years. Little or no geographic structure was detected within these clades. One of the major driving forces of the epidemic was likely the high accessibility between locations in Southern Cameroon contributing to the mobility of the population. The remaining Cameroonian sequences and the new strains isolated from Italian patients were interspersed mainly within West and Central African sequences in the tree, indicating a continuous exchange of CRF02_AG viral strains between Cameroon and other African countries, as well as multiple independent introductions in the Italian population. The evaluation of the spread of CRF02_AG may provide significant insight about the future dynamics of the Italian and European epidemic.
PMCID: PMC3206741  PMID: 21453131
22.  PhyloTempo: A Set of R Scripts for Assessing and Visualizing Temporal Clustering in Genealogies Inferred from Serially Sampled Viral Sequences 
Serially-sampled nucleotide sequences can be used to infer demographic history of evolving viral populations. The shape of a phylogenetic tree often reflects the interplay between evolutionary and ecological processes. Several approaches exist to analyze the topology and traits of a phylogenetic tree, by means of tree balance, branching patterns and comparative properties. The temporal clustering (TC) statistic is a new topological measure, based on ancestral character reconstruction, which characterizes the temporal structure of a phylogeny. Here, PhyloTempo is the first implementation of the TC in the R language, integrating several other topological measures in a user-friendly graphical framework. The comparison of the TC statistic with other measures provides multifaceted insights on the dynamic processes shaping the evolution of pathogenic viruses. The features and applicability of PhyloTempo were tested on serially-sampled intra-host human and simian immunodeficiency virus population data sets. PhyloTempo is distributed under the GNU general public license at
PMCID: PMC3382462  PMID: 22745529
fast evolving viruses; longitudinal samples; phylogenetics; phylodynamics; comparative methods; clustering; software; positive selection; coalescence
23.  A New Evolutionary Model for Hepatitis C Virus Chronic Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(5):e1002656.
PMCID: PMC3342959  PMID: 22570609
24.  Testing Spatiotemporal Hypothesis of Bacterial Evolution Using Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus ST239 Genome-wide Data within a Bayesian Framework 
Molecular Biology and Evolution  2010;28(5):1593-1603.
Staphylococcus aureus is a common cause of infections that has undergone rapid global spread over recent decades. Formal phylogeographic methods have not yet been applied to the molecular epidemiology of bacterial pathogens because the limited genetic diversity of data sets based on individual genes usually results in poor phylogenetic resolution. Here, we investigated a whole-genome single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data set of health care-associated Methicillin-resistant S. aureus sequence type 239 (HA-MRSA ST239) strains, which we analyzed using Markov spatial models that incorporate geographical sampling distributions. The reconstructed timescale indicated a temporal origin of this strain shortly after the introduction of Methicillin, followed by global pandemic spread. The estimate of the temporal origin was robust to the molecular clock, coalescent prior, full/intergenic/synonymous SNP inclusion, and correction for excluded invariant site patterns. Finally, phylogeographic analyses statistically supported the role of human movement in the global dissemination of HA-MRSA ST239, although it was unable to conclusively resolve the location of the root. This study demonstrates that bacterial genomes can indeed contain sufficient evolutionary information to elucidate the temporal and spatial dynamics of transmission. Future applications of this approach to other bacterial strains may provide valuable epidemiological insights that may justify the cost of genome-wide typing.
PMCID: PMC3115679  PMID: 21112962
Bayesian inférence; phylogeography; phylogenetics; measurably evolving population
25.  HIV-1 Subtype distribution in morocco based on national sentinel surveillance data 2004-2005 
Little is known about HIV-1 subtype distribution in Morocco. Some data suggest an emergence of new HIV subtypes. We conducted phylogenetic analysis on a nationally representative sample of 60 HIV-1 viral specimens collected during 2004-2005 through the Morocco national HIV sentinel surveillance survey.
While subtype B is still the most prevalent, 23.3% of samples represented non-B subtypes, the majority of which were classified as CRF02_AG (15%). Molecular clock analysis confirmed that the initial introduction of HIV-1B in Morocco probably came from Europe in the early 1980s. In contrast, the CRF02_AG strain appeared to be introduced from sub-Saharan Africa in two separate events in the 1990s.
Subtype CRF02_AG has been emerging in Morocco since the 1990s. More information about the factors introducing HIV subtype-specific transmission will inform the prevention strategy in the region.
PMCID: PMC3308925  PMID: 22333070
HIV-1; subtypes; phylogeny; Morocco

Results 1-25 (49)