Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection is in general established by CCR5-utilizing (R5) virus variants, which persist throughout the course of infection. R5 HIV-1 variants evolve into CXCR4-utilizing (X4) HIV-1 variants in approximately half of the infected individuals. We have previously observed an ongoing genetic evolution with a continuous divergence of envelope gp120 sequences of coexisting R5 and X4 virus variants over time. Here, we studied evolution of gag p17 sequences in two patients who developed X4 variants in the course of infection. In contrast to the envelope gp120 sequences, gag p17 sequences of R5 and X4 virus populations intermingled in phylogenetic trees and did not diverge from each other over time. Statistical evaluation using the Shimodaira-Hasegawa test indicated that the different genomic regions evolved along different topologies, supporting the hypothesis of recombination. Therefore, our data imply that recombination between R5 and X4 HIV-1 variants occurs in vivo.
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