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J Virol. 2001 Mar;75(5):2194-203.

Perinatal transmission of major, minor, and multiple maternal human immunodeficiency virus type 1 variants in utero and intrapartum.

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Department of Pediatrics, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.


Previous studies have provided conflicting data on the presence of selective pressures in the transmission of a homogeneous maternal viral subpopulation to the infant. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to definitively characterize the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) quasispecies transmitted in utero and intrapartum. HIV-1 envelope gene diversity from peripheral blood mononuclear cells and plasma was measured during gestation and at delivery in mothers who did and did not transmit HIV perinatally by using a DNA heteroduplex mobility assay. Children were defined as infected in utero or intrapartum based on the timing of the first detection of HIV. Untreated transmitting mothers (n = 19) had significantly lower HIV-1 quasispecies diversity at delivery than untreated nontransmittting mothers (n = 18) (median Shannon entropy, 0.711 [0.642 to 0.816] versus 0.853 [0.762 to 0.925], P = 0.005). Eight mothers transmitted a single major env variant to their infants in utero, and one mother transmitted a single major env variant intrapartum. Four mothers transmitted multiple HIV-1 env variants to their infants in utero, and two mothers transmitted multiple env variants intrapartum. The remaining six intrapartum- and two in utero-infected infants had a homogeneous HIV-1 env quasispecies which did not comigrate with their mothers' bands at their first positive time point. In conclusion, in utero transmitters were more likely to transmit single or multiple major maternal viral variants. In contrast, intrapartum transmitters were more likely to transmit minor HIV-1 variants. These data indicate that different selective pressures, depending on the timing of transmission, may be involved in determining the pattern of maternal HIV-1 variant transmission.

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