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J Virol. 1998 Feb;72(2):1092-102.

Conservation of an intact vif gene of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 during maternal-fetal transmission.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, College of Medicine, The University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, Tucson 85724, USA.


The human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) vif gene is conserved among most lentiviruses, suggesting that vif is important for natural infection. To determine whether an intact vif gene is positively selected during mother-to-infant transmission, we analyzed vif sequences from five infected mother-infant pairs following perinatal transmission. The coding potential of the vif open reading frame directly derived from uncultured peripheral blood mononuclear cell DNA was maintained in most of the 78,912 bp sequenced. We found that 123 of the 137 clones analyzed showed an 89.8% frequency of intact vif open reading frames. There was a low degree of heterogeneity of vif genes within mothers, within infants, and between epidemiologically linked mother-infant pairs. The distances between vif sequences were greater in epidemiologically unlinked individuals than in epidemiologically linked mother-infant pairs. Furthermore, the epidemiologically linked mother-infant pair vif sequences displayed similar patterns that were not seen in vif sequences from epidemiologically unlinked individuals. The functional domains, including the two cysteines at positions 114 and 133, a serine phosphorylation site at position 144, and the C-terminal basic amino acids essential for vif protein function, were highly conserved in most of the sequences. Phylogenetic analyses of 137 mother-infant pair vif sequences and 187 other available vif sequences from HIV-1 databases revealed distinct clusters for vif sequences from each mother-infant pair and for other vif sequences. Taken together, these findings suggest that vif plays an important role in HIV-1 infection and replication in mothers and their perinatally infected infants.

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