The evolution of HIV-1 and the origin of AIDS

Paul M. Sharp, Beatrice H. Hahn

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

Abstract

The major cause of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1). We have been using evolutionary comparisons to trace (i) the origin(s) of HIV-1 and (ii) the origin(s) of AIDS. The closest relatives of HIV-1 are simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIVs) infecting wild-living chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) and gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) in west central Africa. Phylogenetic analyses have revealed the origins of HIV-1: chimpanzees were the original hosts of this clade of viruses; four lineages of HIV-1 have arisen by independent cross-species transmissions to humans and one or two of those transmissions may have been via gorillas. However, SIVs are primarily monkey viruses: more than 40 species of African monkeys are infected with their own, species-specific, SIV and in at least some host species, the infection seems non-pathogenic. Chimpanzees acquired from monkeys two distinct forms of SIVs that recombined to produce a virus with a unique genome structure. We have found that SIV infection causes CD4(+) T-cell depletion and increases mortality in wild chimpanzees, and so the origin of AIDS is more ancient than the origin of HIV-1. Tracing the genetic changes that occurred as monkey viruses adapted to infect first chimpanzees and then humans may provide insights into the causes of the pathogenicity of these viruses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2487-2494
Number of pages8
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume365
Issue number1552
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Aug 2010

Keywords

  • human immunodeficiency virus type 1
  • simian immunodeficiency virus
  • chimpanzee
  • gorilla
  • adaptation
  • tetherin

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