Evolution of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 nucleotide sequence diversity among close contacts

Harold Burger, Barbara Weiser, Kelli Flaherty, Janet Gulla, Phi Nga Nguyen, Richard A. Gibbs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


The degree of change in the nucleotide sequence of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) that occurs when it is transmitted sexually from one individual to another or vertically from mother to child is unknown. Previous studies have shown that most cultured HIV-1 isolates from the same individuals differed in the entire envelope gene nucleotide sequence by up to 2%, although most isolates from unrelated individuals differed by 6-22%. To examine diversity among HIV-1 isolates from close contacts, we determined the nucleotide sequences of viruses from a family with a known epidemiologic profile, in which a woman transmitted HIV-1 heterosexually to her partner and vertically to her daughter. Direct DNA sequence analysis of primary HIV-1 isolates amplified by PCR was used to distinguish the major and minor viral sequences, termed quasispecies, to rapidly determine the predominant sequences and their phylogenetic relationships. The nucleotide sequence diversity of a major portion of the HIV-1 envelope gene was 3.7% between isolates from the woman and her heterosexual partner and 8.5% between isolates from this woman and her daughter, who had been infected for a longer period than the partner. The configuration of the phylogenetic tree demonstrated that the daughter's predominant isolate evolved from a progenitor of her mother's current strain. This study provides evidence of a continuous spectrum of sequence diversity between any two isolates ranging from those derived from the same person to those from close contacts and, ultimately, those from unrelated individuals. These data and methods can be applied to epidemiologic investigations of possible HIV-1 transmission between health care workers and their patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11236-11240
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number24
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • Direct DNA sequencing
  • Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 diversity
  • Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General
  • Genetics


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