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FASEB J. 2001 Feb;15(2):276-8. Epub 2000 Dec 8.

Dating the common ancestor of SIVcpz and HIV-1 group M and the origin of HIV-1 subtypes using a new method to uncover clock-like molecular evolution.

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  • 1Rega Institute for Medical Research, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium.


Attempts to estimate the time of origin of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 by using phylogenetic analysis are seriously flawed because of the unequal evolutionary rates among different viral lineages. Here, we report a new method of molecular clock analysis, called Site Stripping for Clock Detection (SSCD), which allows selection of nucleotide sites evolving at an equal rate in different lineages. The method was validated on a dataset of patients all infected with hepatitis C virus in 1977 by the same donor, and it was able to date exactly the known origin of the infection. Using the same method, we calculated that the origin of HIV-1 group M radiation was in the 1930s. In addition, we show that the coalescence time of the simian ancestor of HIV-1 group M and its closest related cpz strains occurred around the end of the XVII century, a date that could be considered the upper limit to the time of simian-to-human transmission of HIV-1 group M. The results show also that SSCD is an easy-to-use method of general applicability in molecular evolution to calibrate clock-like phylogenetic trees.

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