Evidence of two distinct subsubtypes within the HIV-1 subtype A radiation
Trask, S. A.
Kostrikis, Leontios G.
Ho, David D.
Oh, M. -D
Robertson, D. L.
Shaw, G. M.
Hahn, B. H.
SourceAIDS Research and Human Retroviruses
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Members of HIV-1 group M are responsible for the vast majority of AIDS cases worldwide and have been classified on the basis of their phylogenetic relationships into nine roughly equidistant clades, termed subtypes. Although there are no known phenotypic correlates for these genotypes, the disproportionate spread of certain of these lineages has been taken to indicate that subtype-specific biological differences may exist. The subtype nomenclature thus remains an important molecular epidemiological tool with which to track the course of the group M pandemic. In this study, we have characterized HIV-1 strains described previously as unusual subtype A variants on the basis of partial sequence analysis. Six such strains from Cyprus (CY), South Korea (KR), and the Democratic Republic of Congo (CD) were PCR amplified from infected cell culture or patient PBMC DNA, cloned, and sequences in their entirety (94CY017, 97KR004, 97CDKTB48, and 97CDKP58) or as half genomes (97CDKS10 and 97CDKFE4). Distance and phylogenetic analyses showed that four of these viruses (94CY017, 97CDKTB48, 97CDKFE4, and 97CDKS10) were closely related to each other, but quite divergent from all other HIV-1 strains, except for subtype A viruses, which represented their closest relatives. In phylogenetic trees from gag, pol, env, and nef regions, the four newly characterized HIV-1 strains formed a distinct sister clade to subtype A, which was as closely related to subtype A as subsubtypes F1 and F2 are to each other. According to current nomenclature rules, this defines a subsubtype, which we have tentatively termed A2. The two other viruses, 97KR004 and 97CDKP58, as well as a full-length HIV-1 sequence from the sequence database (ZAM184), were found to represent complex A2/D, A2/G, and A2/C recombinants, respectively. These results indicate that HIV-1 subtype A is composed of two subsubtypes (A1 and A2), both of which appear to have a widespread geographic distribution. The A2 viruses described here represent the first reference reagents for this new group M lineage.
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