It is now well established that the clade of simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIVs) infecting west central African chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) and western gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) comprises the progenitors of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1). In this study, we have greatly expanded our previous molecular epidemiological survey of SIVcpz in wild chimpanzees in Cameroon. The new results confirm a wide but uneven distribution of SIVcpzPtt in P. t. troglodytes throughout southern Cameroon and indicate the absence of SIVcpz infection in Pan troglodytes vellerosus. Analyzing 725 fecal samples from 15 field sites, we obtained partial nucleotide sequences from 16 new SlVcpzPtt strains and determined full-length sequences for two of these. Phylogenetic analyses of these new viruses confirmed the previously reported phylogeographic clustering of SIVcpzPtt lineages, with viruses related to the ancestors of HIV-1 groups M and N circulating exclusively in southeastern and south central P. t. troglodytes communities, respectively. Importantly, the SIVcpzPtt strains from the southeastern corner of Cameroon represent a relatively isolated clade indicating a defined geographic origin of the chimpanzee precursor of HIV-1 group M. Since contacts between humans and apes continue, the possibility of ongoing transmissions of SIV from chimpanzees (or gorillas) to humans has to be considered. In this context, our finding of distinct SIVcpzPtt envelope V3 sequence clades suggests that these peptides may be useful for the serological differentiation of SIVcpzPtt and HIV-1 infections, and thus the diagnosis of new cross-species transmissions if they occurred. (C) 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.