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J Virol Methods. 1999 Mar;78(1-2):51-9.

Restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis for rapid gag subtype determination of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 in South Africa.

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Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Cape Town, Observatory, South Africa.


A rapid method for identification of human immunodeficiency virus Type 1 (HIV-1) gag subtypes was developed based on restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis of 400 or 650 bp long polymerase chain reaction (PCR) fragments encompassing the start of the p17 (400 bp) and part of the p24 (650bp) regions. The consensus sequences of subtypes A-D, the only subtypes identified in South Africa, were analyzed to detect restriction endonucleases which generate unique patterns for each subtype. Four restriction endonucleases were identified: AluI, AccI, SwaI and XmnI. Digestion of a 400 bp fragment with AluI allowed identification of subtype C. Samples not identified were then reamplified, and a 650 bp fragment digested with AccI to identify subtype B, followed by SwaI and XmnI to distinguish between subtypes A and D. This strategy was applied to 87 samples previously subtyped by either sequence analysis of the gag p17 region (n = 33); or heteroduplex mobility assay (HMA) based on the env gene (n = 75); or both (n = 21). Out of the 87 samples, RFLP identified two samples as subtype A, 28 as subtype B, 56 as subtype C and one as a subtype D virus. No discrepancies were found between RFLP gag subtypes and gag sequence subtypes demonstrating the reliability of this method. There was also no discordance between gag RFLP subtypes and env HMA subtypes, suggesting that there were no recombinant viruses detected relating to the genomic regions analyzed. RFLP is an effective technique for the rapid screening in an HIV epidemic of limited diversity, such as in South Africa.

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