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AIDS. 1999 Dec 3;13(17):2349-59.

Increased fitness of drug resistant HIV-1 protease as a result of acquisition of compensatory mutations during suboptimal therapy.

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Eijkman-Winkler Institute, Department of Virology, University Hospital Utrecht, The Netherlands.



It is thought as a consequence of continuous replication, HIV-1 has acquired an optimal fitness state and that suboptimal antiretroviral therapy selects for drug resistant variants which show impaired fitness in the absence of the drug. In this paper we studied the evolution and fitness of viral populations appearing in a patient who received protease monotherapy.


Two factors contributing to fitness, drug resistance and protease catalytic activity, were studied at the enzymatic and virological level.


The first drug resistant viral variants that were selected in vivo harboured one to three protease substitutions. These mutants showed reduced protease activity and consequently a reduction in viral replication capacity. During continued in vivo replication of these viruses in the presence of the drug, novel variants harbouring additional substitutions in the viral protease appeared. These variants did not display any further increase in drug resistance but demonstrated clearly increased protease activity. Consequently the replication capacity of these viruses was raised to a level at which they replicated better than the original wild-type virus.


This study indicates that the viral population in the patient does not have to represent the fittest possible variants, and thus antiretroviral therapy may drive the viral population first through a lower fitness level and then to a higher fitness level.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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