Evolution of relative synonymous codon usage in Human Immunodeficiency Virus type-1.
Mutation in Human Immunodeficiency Virus type-1 (HIV-1) is extremely rapid, a consequence of a low-fidelity viral reverse transcription process. The envelope gene has been shown to accumulate substitutions at a rate of approximately 1% per year and can frequently spend a long time in the host (approximately 10 years). The relative synonymous codon usage (RSCU) in HIV-1 is known to be different from that of the human host. However, by reengineering the protein coding sequences of HIV-1 to reflect the RSCU patterns observed in humans, a large increase in protein expression is observed. It is reasonable to suggest that within a host there may be a selective drive for change in the RSCU of HIV-1 towards human RSCU. To test this hypothesis we analyzed HIV-1 partial envelope sequences from eight patients sampled serially in time. For each sequence, an RSCU table was constructed. Sequences were labelled as "early" or "late" depending on whether they were sampled before or after the mid-point of the study. Using the RSCU values as descriptor variables, a Principal Components Analysis (PCA) was performed. The first three components clearly discriminated between early and late sequences. We also constructed pooled groupwise RSCU tables for early and late sequences. The viral RSCU values of each of the groups were correlated with human RSCU. If there is selection for host-adaptation in RSCU, we expect that "late" viral RSCUs would tend to be more highly correlated with human RSCU than "early" viral RSCUs. In fact, tests of significance suggest that this is the case. However, closer examination of the data revealed that the apparent trend towards human RSCU can be attributed to the homogenization of the codon usage by mutation pressure rather than host adaptation.
Meintjes, PL; Rodrigo, AG
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