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Open Access Research article

Positive selection of HIV host factors and the evolution of lentivirus genes

Katarzyna Bożek* and Thomas Lengauer

Author Affiliations

Max Planck Institute for Informatics Computational Biology and Applied Algorithmics Campus E1 4 66123 Saarbrücken, Germany

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10:186  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-186

Published: 18 June 2010

Abstract

Background

Positive selection of host proteins that interact with pathogens can indicate factors relevant for infection and potentially be a measure of pathogen driven evolution.

Results

Our analysis of 1439 primate genes and 175 lentivirus genomes points to specific host factors of high genetic variability that could account for differences in susceptibility to disease and indicate specific mechanisms of host defense and pathogen adaptation. We find that the largest amount of genetic change occurs in genes coding for cellular membrane proteins of the host as well as in the viral envelope genes suggesting cell entry and immune evasion as the primary evolutionary interface between host and pathogen. We additionally detect the innate immune response as a gene functional group harboring large differences among primates that could potentially account for the different levels of immune activation in the HIV/SIV primate infection. We find a significant correlation between the evolutionary rates of interacting host and viral proteins pointing to processes of the host-pathogen biology that are relatively conserved among species and to those undergoing accelerated genetic evolution.

Conclusions

These results indicate specific host factors and their functional groups experiencing pathogen driven evolutionary selection pressures. Individual host factors pointed to by our analysis might merit further study as potential targets of antiretroviral therapies.