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Virology. 2004 Sep 1;326(2):262-79.

Identification of a preferred region for recombination and mutation in HIV-1 gag.

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Department of Medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, NY, USA.

Erratum in

  • Virology. 2004 Nov 24;329(2):513.


We designed a cell culture-based system to test the hypothesis that recombination events during HIV-1 replication would be more frequent near the dimerization initiation sequence (DIS). A 459-bp region spanning the DIS through the 5'-end of gag was sequenced and analyzed to determine the frequency and distribution of crossover sites. We found a strong preference for recombination events occurring within a 112-nt-long region encompassing the gag AUG (64% of crossovers occurred in this region, compared to 10-14% in surrounding regions with similar lengths). Surprisingly, the region immediately surrounding the DIS was not a preferred site of recombination. Analysis of recombination events using RNA templates transcribed in vitro revealed a preference for crossover sites at the start of the gag coding region, similar to that observed in cell culture. This recombinogenic region was unusually G-rich and promoted extensive pausing by RT in vitro. Template features that induce RT pausing very likely contribute to the observed template switching events in gag during minus-strand synthesis. The region in gag that was a preferred site for recombination also had an approximately 2-fold higher mutation frequency compared to the rest of the region sequenced, but mutations were no more common in recombinant compared to non-recombinant clones, suggesting that recombination events were not mutagenic.

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