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J Virol. 2000 Sep;74(18):8524-31.

Retracing the evolutionary pathways of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 resistance to protease inhibitors: virus fitness in the absence and in the presence of drug.

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Laboratoire de Recherche Antivirale, INSERM U82, Paris, France.


Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) resistance to protease inhibitors (PI) is a major obstacle to the full success of combined antiretroviral therapy. High-level resistance to these compounds is the consequence of stepwise accumulation of amino acid substitutions in the HIV-1 protease (PR), following pathways that usually differ from one inhibitor to another. The selective advantage conferred by resistance mutations may depend upon several parameters: the impact of the mutation on virus infectivity in the presence or absence of drug, the nature of the drug, and its local concentration. Because drug concentrations in vivo are subject to extensive variation over time and display a markedly uneven tissue distribution, the parameters of selection for HIV-1 resistance to PI in treated patients are complex and poorly understood. In this study, we have reconstructed a large series of HIV-1 mutants that carry single or combined mutations in the PR, retracing the accumulation pathways observed in ritonavir-, indinavir-, and saquinavir-treated patients. We have then measured the phenotypic resistance and the drug-free infectivity of these mutant viruses. A deeper insight into the evolutionary value of HIV-1 PR mutants came from a novel assay system designed to measure the replicative advantage of mutant viruses as a function of drug concentration. By tracing the resultant fitness profiles, we determined the range of drug concentrations for which mutant viruses displayed a replicative advantage over the wild type and the extent of this advantage. Fitness profiles were fully consistent with the order of accumulation of resistance mutations observed in treated patients and further emphasise the key importance of local drug concentration in the patterns of selection of drug-resistant HIV-1 mutants.

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