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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Jun 5;98(12):6975-80. Epub 2001 May 29.

Genetic drift and within-host metapopulation dynamics of HIV-1 infection.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of California, San Diego, CA 92103, USA.


Most HIV replication occurs in solid lymphoid tissue, which has prominent architecture at the histological level, which separates groups of productively infected CD4(+) cells. Nevertheless, current population models of HIV assume panmixis within lymphoid tissue. We present a simple "metapopulation" model of HIV replication, where the population of infected cells is comprised of a large number of small populations, each of which is established by a few founder viruses and undergoes turnover. To test this model, we analyzed viral genetic variation of infected cell subpopulations within the spleen and demonstrated the action of founder effects as well as significant variation in the extent of genetic differentiation between subpopulations among patients. The combination of founder effects and subpopulation turnover can result in an effective population size much lower than the actual population size and may contribute to the importance of genetic drift in HIV evolution despite a large number of infected cells.

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