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J Virol. 2004 Jul;78(14):7545-52.

Transmitted human immunodeficiency virus type 1 carrying the D67N or K219Q/E mutation evolves rapidly to zidovudine resistance in vitro and shows a high replicative fitness in the presence of zidovudine.

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  • 1HIV and Retrovirology Branch, Division of AIDS, STD, and TB Laboratory Research, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA. GGarcia-lerma@cdc.gov


Drug-naive patients infected with drug-resistant human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) who initiate antiretroviral therapy show a shorter time to virologic failure than patients infected with wild-type (WT) viruses. Resistance-related HIV genotypes not commonly seen in treated patients, which likely result from reversion or loss of primary resistance mutations, have also been recognized in drug-naive persons. Little work has been done to characterize the patterns of mutations in these viruses and the frequency of occurrence, their association with phenotypic resistance, and their effect on fitness and evolution of resistance. Through the analysis of resistance mutations in 1082 newly diagnosed antiretroviral-naive persons from the United States, we found that 35 of 48 (72.9%) persons infected with HIV-1 containing thymidine analog mutations (TAMs) had viruses that lacked a primary mutation (T215Y/F, K70R, or Q151M). Of these viruses, 9 (25.7%) had only secondary TAMs (D67N, K219Q, M41L, or F77L), and all were found to be sensitive to zidovudine (AZT) and other drugs. To assess the impact of secondary TAMs on the evolution of AZT resistance, we generated recombinant viruses from cloned plasma-derived reverse transcriptase sequences. Two viruses had D67N, three had D67N and K219Q/E, and three were WT. Four site-directed mutants with D67N, K219Q, K219E, and D67N/K219Q were also made in HIV-1(HXB2). In vitro selection of AZT resistance showed that viruses with D67N and/or K219Q/E acquired AZT resistance mutations more rapidly than WT viruses (36 days compared to 54 days; P = 0.003). To investigate the factors associated with the rapid selection of AZT mutations in these viruses, we evaluated fitness differences among HXB2(WT) and HXB2(D67N) or HXB2(D67N/K219Q) in the presence of AZT. Both HXB2(D67N/K219Q) and HXB2(D67N) were more fit than HXB2(WT) in the presence of either low or high AZT concentrations, likely reflecting low-level resistance to AZT that is not detectable by phenotypic testing. In the absence of AZT, the fitness cost conferred by D67N or K219Q was modest. Our results demonstrate that viruses with unique patterns of TAMs, including D67N and/or K219Q/E, are commonly found among newly diagnosed persons and illustrate the expanding diversity of revertant viruses in this population. The modest fitness cost conferred by D67N and K219Q supports persistence of these mutants in the untreated population and highlights the potential for secondary transmission. The faster evolution of these mutants toward AZT resistance is consistent with the higher viral fitness in the presence of AZT and shows that these viruses are phenotypically different from WT HIV-1. Our study emphasizes the need for clinical studies to better define the impact of these mutants on treatment responses and evolution of resistance.

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