Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Bioinformatics and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

In silico segmentations of lentivirus envelope sequences

Aurélia Boissin-Quillon1, Didier Piau2 and Caroline Leroux1*

Author Affiliations

1 UMR754 INRA-ENVL-UCBL "Rétrovirus et Pathologie Comparée", IFR 128 BioSciences Lyon-Gerland, Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, 69007 Lyon, France

2 Institut Fourier UMR 5582 CNRS-UJF, Université Joseph Fourier (Grenoble 1), 100 rue des Maths, BP 74, 38402 Saint Martin d'Hères, France

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Bioinformatics 2007, 8:99  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-8-99

Published: 21 March 2007



The gene encoding the envelope of lentiviruses exhibits a considerable plasticity, particularly the region which encodes the surface (SU) glycoprotein. Interestingly, mutations do not appear uniformly along the sequence of SU, but they are clustered in restricted areas, called variable (V) regions, which are interspersed with relatively more stable regions, called constant (C) regions. We look for specific signatures of C/V regions, using hidden Markov models constructed with SU sequences of the equine, human, small ruminant and simian lentiviruses.


Our models yield clear and accurate delimitations of the C/V regions, when the test set and the training set were made up of sequences of the same lentivirus, but also when they were made up of sequences of different lentiviruses. Interestingly, the models predicted the different regions of lentiviruses such as the bovine and feline lentiviruses, not used in the training set. Models based on composite training sets produce accurate segmentations of sequences of all these lentiviruses.


Our results suggest that each C/V region has a specific statistical oligonucleotide composition, and that the C (respectively V) regions of one of these lentiviruses are statistically more similar to the C (respectively V) regions of the other lentiviruses, than to the V (respectively C) regions of the same lentivirus.