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J Virol. 2000 Feb;74(3):1234-40.

High rate of recombination throughout the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 genome.

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Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, New Jersey 08854, USA.


The diploid nature of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) indicates that recombination serves a central function in virus replication and evolution. Previously, while examining the nature of obligatory primer strand transfers during reverse transcription, a high rate of recombination was observed at the ends of the viral genome within the viral long terminal repeats, prompting the following question: does recombination occur at a high rate throughout the genome? To address this question, two vectors based upon different strains of HIV-1 were utilized. The vectors were comprised predominantly of autologous HIV-1 sequence and were approximately the same size as the parental genome. The proviral progeny of heterodimeric virions were analyzed after a single cycle of replication, and the sequence heterogeneity between the two strains allowed direct examination of recombination crossovers. The results obtained indicate that HIV-1 undergoes approximately two to three recombination events per genome per replication cycle. These results imply that both HIV-1 RNAs are typically utilized during reverse transcription and that recombination is an important aspect of HIV-1 replication.

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