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Retrovirology. 2014 Mar 11;11:22. doi: 10.1186/1742-4690-11-22.

The number and genetic relatedness of transmitted/founder virus impact clinical outcome in vaginal R5 SHIVSF162P3N infection.

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Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, Aaron Diamond Professor at the Rockefeller University, New York, NY, USA.



Severe genetic bottleneck occurs during HIV-1 sexual transmission whereby most infections are initiated by a single transmitted/founder (T/F) virus. Similar observations had been made in nonhuman primates exposed mucosally to SIV/SHIV. We previously reported variable clinical outcome in rhesus macaques inoculated intravaginally (ivg) with a high dose of R5 SHIVSF162P3N. Given the potential contributions of viral diversity to HIV-1 persistence and AIDS pathogenesis and recombination between retroviral genomes increases the genetic diversity, we tested the hypothesis that transmission of multiple variants contributes to heightened levels of virus replication and faster disease progression in the SHIVSF162P3N ivg-infected monkeys.


We found that the differences in viral replication and disease progression between the transiently viremic (TV; n = 2), chronically-infected (CP; n = 8) and rapid progressor (RP; n = 4) ivg-infected macaques cannot be explained by which variant in the inoculum was infecting the animal. Rather, transmission of a single variant was observed in both TV rhesus, with 1-2 T/F viruses found in the CPs and 2-4 in all four RP macaques. Moreover, the genetic relatedness of the T/F viruses in the CP monkeys with multivariant transmission was greater than that seen in the RPs. Biological characterization of a subset of T/F envelopes from chronic and rapid progressors revealed differences in their ability to mediate entry into monocyte-derived macrophages, with enhanced macrophage tropism observed in the former as compared to the latter.


Our study supports the tenet that sequence diversity of the infecting virus contributes to higher steady-state levels of HIV-1 virus replication and faster disease progression and highlights the role of macrophage tropism in HIV-1 transmission and persistence.

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