Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 57, Issue 2, pp 212–221 | Cite as

Widespread Adaptive Evolution in the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Genome

  • Wa Yang
  • Joseph P. Bielawski
  • Ziheng Yang


We investigated variable selective pressures among amino acid sites in HIV-1 genes. Selective pressure at the amino acid level was measured by using the nonsynonymous/synonymous substitution rate ratio (ω = d N/d S). To identify amino acid sites under positive selection with ω > 1, we applied maximum likelihood models that allow variable ω ratios among sites to analyze genomic sequences of 26 HIV-1 lineages including subtypes A, B, and C. Likelihood ratio tests detected sites under positive selection in each of the major genes in the genome: env, gag, pol, vif, and vpr. Positive selection was also detected in nef, tat, and vpu, although those genes are very small. The majority of positive selection sites is located in gp160. Positive selection was not detected if ω was estimated as an average across all sites, indicating the lack of power of the averaging approach. Candidate positive selection sites were mapped onto the available protein tertiary structures and immunogenic epitopes. We measured the physiochemical properties of amino acids and found that those at positive selection sites were more diverse than those at variable sites. Furthermore, amino acid residues at exposed positive selection sites were more physiochemically diverse than at buried positive selection sites. Our results demonstrate genomewide diversifying selection acting on the HIV-1.


HIV-1 Positive selection Physiochemical properties Epitopes 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity College London, Darwin Building, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BTUK

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