Gene loss and adaptation to hominids underlie the ancient origin of HIV-1.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Cell host & microbe, Volume 14, Issue 1, p.85-92 (2013)


2013, August 2013, Basic Sciences Division, Center-Authored Paper, Computational Biology Core Facility, Genomics Core Facility, Human Biology Division, Public Health Sciences Division


HIV-1 resulted from cross-species transmission of SIVcpz, a simian immunodeficiency virus that naturally infects chimpanzees. SIVcpz, in turn, is a recombinant between two SIV lineages from Old World monkeys. Lentiviral interspecies transmissions are partly driven by the evolution and capacity of viral accessory genes, such as vpx, vpr, and vif, to antagonize host antiviral factors, such as SAMHD1 and the APOBEC3 proteins. We show that vpx, which in other lentiviruses antagonizes SAMHD1, was deleted during the creation of SIVcpz. This genomic deletion resulted in the reconstruction of the overlapping vif gene by "overprinting," creating a unique vif that overlaps in its 3' end with the vpr gene and can antagonize hominid APOBEC3s. Moreover, passage of SIVs through chimpanzees facilitated the subsequent adaptation of HIV-1 to humans. Thus, HIV-1 originated through a series of gene loss and adaptation events that generated its chimpanzee precursor and lowered the species barrier to human infection.