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Volume 8 Supplement 2

Frontiers of Retrovirology 2011

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APOBEC3 has not left an evolutionary footprint on the HIV-1 Genome

It is known that the human immune proteins APOBEC3G and -F (hA3G/F) can inhibit Vif-deficient HIV by G-to-A mutation; however, the roles of these enzymes in the evolution of HIV are debated. We argue that if evolutionary pressure from hA3G/F exists there should be evidence of their imprint on the HIV genome in the form of (i) underrepresentation of hA3G/F target motifs (e.g., TGGG [targeted position is underlined]) and overrepresentation of product motifs (e.g., TAGG) and/or (ii) an increase in the ratio of nonsynonymous to synonymous (NS/S) G-to-A changes among hA3G/F target motifs and a decrease of NS/S A-to-G changes among hA3G/F product motifs. To test the first hypothesis, we studied the representation of hA3G/F target and product motifs in 1,932 complete HIV-1 genomes using Markov models. We found that the highly targeted motifs are not underrepresented and their product motifs are not overrepresented. To test the second hypothesis, we determined the NS/S G7A changes among the hA3G/F target and product motifs in 1,540 complete sets of nine HIV-1 genes. The NS/S changes did not show an increasing/decreasing trend within the target/ product motifs, but the NS/S changes within the motif AG was exceptionally low. We observed the same pattern by analyzing 740 human genes. Given that hA3G/F do not act on the human genome, this suggests a small NS/S change within AG has arisen by other mechanisms. We therefore find no evidence of an evolutionary footprint of hA3G/F. We postulate several mechanisms to explain why the HIV-1 genome does not contain the hA3G/F footprint.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Ebrahimi, D., Anwar, F. & Davenport, M.P. APOBEC3 has not left an evolutionary footprint on the HIV-1 Genome. Retrovirology 8 (Suppl 2), P88 (2011).

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