Dynamics of HIV-1 recombination in its natural target cells

Academic Article


  • Genetic recombination is believed to assist HIV-1 diversification and escape from host immunity and antiviral therapies, yet this process remains largely unexamined within the natural target-cell populations. We developed a method for measuring HIV-1 recombination directly that employs reporter viruses bearing functional enhanced yellow fluorescent protein (YFP) and enhanced cyan fluorescent protein (CFP) genes in which recombination produces a modified GFP gene and GFP fluorescence in the infected cells. These reporter viruses allow simultaneous quantification of the dynamics of HIV-1 infection, coinfection, and recombination in cell culture and in animal models by flow-cytometric analysis. Multiround infection assays revealed that productive cellular coinfection was subject to little functional inhibition. As a result, generation of recombinants proceeded according to the square of the infection rate during HIV-1 replication in T lymphocytes and within human thymic grafts in severe combined immunodeficient (SCID)-hu (Thy/Liv) mice. These results suggest that increases in viral load may confer a compounding risk of virus escape by means of recombinational diversification. A single round of replication in T lymphocytes in culture generated an average of nine recombination events per virus, and infection of macrophages led to ≈30 cross-over events, making HIV-1 up to an order of magnitude more recombinogenic than recognized previously and demonstrating that the infected cell exerts a profound influence on the frequency of recombination.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Levy DN; Aldrovandi GM; Kutsch O; Shaw GM
  • Start Page

  • 4204
  • End Page

  • 4209
  • Volume

  • 101
  • Issue

  • 12