Positive selection of HIV-1 cytotoxic T lymphocyte escape variants during primary infection.
Price DA., Goulder PJ., Klenerman P., Sewell AK., Easterbrook PJ., Troop M., Bangham CR., Phillips RE.
Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) are thought to play a crucial role in the termination of the acute primary HIV-1 syndrome, but clear evidence for this presumption has been lacking. Here we demonstrate positive selection of HIV-1 proviral sequences encoding variants within a CTL epitope in Nef, a gene product critical for viral pathogenicity, during and after seroconversion. These positively selected HIV-1 variants carried epitope sequence changes that either diminished or escaped CTL recognition. Other proviruses had mutations that abolished the Nef epitope altogether. These results provide clear evidence that CTLs exert selection pressure on the viral population in acute HIV-1 infection.