HIV mutates rapidly and forms countless virus variants in the patient. A collaboration of scientists from the group of Dr. Richard Neher, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, and scientists from Stockholm analyzed the evolution of HIV using patient samples from early to chronic infection.
To characterize the evolution and adaptation of HIV variants, the researchers analyzed the viral RNA from samples of HIV-infected patients for several years, using cutting-edge sequencing methods.
The scientists could show that the development of virus variants in each individual follows reproducible patterns. Certain regions of the virus accumulate mutations much faster than others: regions in the DNA that contain important functions for the virus reproduction vary less and almost all viruses from one sample have the same sequence at such sites.
At other sites of the genome, where mutations are not as detrimental for the virus, variation increases steadily and for a large fraction of these sites alternative variations circulate in the virus population. This diversity allows the viral population to adapt rapidly.
The viruses change at up to one percent of genome positions per year – this corresponds to the difference between human and chimpanzee. The frequent mutations help the virus to hide from the immune system – at the expense of the viral functionality. The scientists calculated the globally most frequent state for every site in the HIV genome.
They compared this global consensus sequence with the sequences from the patient samples. Surprisingly, 30 percent of all variations were reversions towards the consensus sequence. “One of our principal observations was that the virus has a kind of favourite sequence. The immune system pushes the virus away from this sequence. When the pressure of the immune system ceases, the viruses go back to this sequence”, explains Neher.
This happens for example when the virus is transmitted to another person, whose immune system recognizes other parts of the virus.
The results could also help to find vaccines against HIV: “Although HIV exists in many different strains, we found that the weak points of the virus are often the same in completely unrelated infections. One should now focus on these common weak points to develop vaccines”, says Fabio Zanini, first author of the study.
The development of HIV in the patients is also a good model to analyze general dynamics of evolution. In the case of HIV, the scientists can observe evolution directly from year to year and study processes that would take millions of years in other organisms.
Population genomics of intrapatient HIV-1 evolution
Contents, including text, figures, and data, are free to reuse under a CC BY 4.0 license.
Dr. Richard Neher
Nadja Winter (Pressereferentin)
Tel.: 07071 601-444
The Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology conducts basic research in the fields of biochemistry, genetics and evolutionary biology. It employs about 360 people and is located at the Max Planck Campus in Tübingen. The Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology is one of 83 research institutes that the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science maintains in Germany.
Nadja Winter | Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie
Not of Divided Mind
19.01.2017 | Hertie-Institut für klinische Hirnforschung (HIH)
CRISPR meets single-cell sequencing in new screening method
19.01.2017 | CeMM Forschungszentrum für Molekulare Medizin der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
19.01.2017 | Life Sciences
19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy