Comparisons of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 envelope variants in blood and genital fluids near the time of male-to-female transmission

Partners in Prevention HSV/HIV Transmission Study Team

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To better understand the transmission of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), the genetic characteristics of blood and genital viruses from males were compared to those of the imputed founding virus population in their female partners. Initially serodiscordant heterosexual African couples with sequence-confirmed male-to-female HIV-1 transmission and blood and genital specimens collected near the time of transmission were studied. Single viral templates from blood plasma and genital tract RNA and DNA were sequenced across HIV-1 env gp160. Eight of 29 couples examined yielded viral sequences from both tissues. Analysis of these couples’ sequences demonstrated, with one exception, that the women’s founding viral populations arose from a single viral variant and were CCR5 tropic, even though CXCR4 variants were detected within four males. The median genetic distance of the imputed most recent common ancestor of the women’s founder viruses showed that they were closer to the semen viruses than to the blood viruses of their transmitting male partner, but this finding was biased by detection of a greater number of viral clades in the blood. Using multiple assays, the blood and genital viruses were consistently found to be compartmentalized in only two of eight men. No distinct amino acid signatures in the men’s viruses were found to link to the women’s founders, nor did the women’s env sequences have shorter variable loops or fewer N-linked glycosylation sites. The lack of selective factors, except for coreceptor tropism, is consistent with others’ findings in male-to-female and high-risk transmissions. The infrequent compartmentalization between the transmitters’ blood and semen viruses suggests that cell-free blood virus likely includes HIV-1 sequences representative of those of viruses in semen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01769-18
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology

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