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AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2000 Oct 10;16(15):1463-9.

Apparent founder effect during the early years of the San Francisco HIV type 1 epidemic (1978-1979).

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Theoretical Biology and Biophysics, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico 87501, USA.


HIV-1 envelope sequence variants were RT-PCR amplified from serum samples cryopreserved in San Francisco in 1978-1979. The HIV-1 subtype B env V3-V5 sequences from four homosexual men clustered phylogenetically, with a median nucleotide distance of 2.8%, reflecting a recent common origin. These early U.S. HIV-1 env variants mapped close to the phylogenetic root of the subtype B tree while env variants collected in the United States throughout the 1980s and 1990s showed, on average, increasing genetic diversity and divergence from the subtype B consensus sequence. These results indicate that the majority of HIV-1 currently circulating in the United States may be descended from an initial introduction and rapid spread during the mid- to late 1970s of subtype B viruses with limited variability (i.e., a founder effect). As expected from the starburst-shaped phylogeny of HIV-1 subtype B, contemporary U.S. strains were, on average, more closely related at the nucleic acid and amino acid levels to the earlier 1978-1979 env variants than to each other. The growing levels of HIV-1 genetic diversity, one of multiple obstacles in designing a protective vaccine, may therefore be mitigated by using epidemic founding variants as antigenic strains for protection against contemporary strains.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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