Molecular epidemiology of feline immunodeficiency virus in the domestic cat (Felis catus).
Studying the evolutionary mechanisms of feline immunodeficiency virus in the domestic cat (Felis catus), FIV(Fca), provides a good comparison to other lentiviruses, such as HIV and FIV(Pco) in the cougar (Puma concolor). We review the current epidemiological and evolutionary findings of FIV(Fca). In addition to the five accepted FIV(Fca), subtypes, several recent phylogenetic studies have found strains that form separate clades, indicative of novel subtypes. In New Zealand cats, these strains of unknown subtype have been found to be involved in complex patterns of intergenic recombination, and whole genome sequences are required to resolve these. Evidence of recombination events has been documented with the highest levels in the env gene, the region involved in host cell receptor recognition. Several cases of FIV(Fca) multiple infections, both inter- and intra-subtype, have been reported. The findings of both unknown subtypes and relatively high levels of recombination suggest the need for further testing of the current vaccine. Limited studies on the evolutionary rate of FIV(Fca) document a value twice to three times that of FIV in the cougar, a result suggesting the different levels of co-adaptation between the viruses and their respective hosts. We studied the tissue distribution of FIV(Fca) in feral domestic cats, finding the first case of FIV compartmentalisation, a phenomenon well documented in HIV-1 patients.
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