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Recombination may be an important mechanism for increasing variation in retroviral populations. Retroviral recombination has been demonstrated in tissue culture systems by artificially creating doubly infected cells. Evidence for retroviral recombination in vivo is indirect and is based principally on the identification of apparently mosaic human immunodeficiency virus type 1 genomes from phylogenetic analyses of viral sequences. We infected a rhesus monkey with two different molecularly cloned strains of simian immunodeficiency virus. One strain of virus had a deletion in vpx and vpr, and the other strain had a deletion in nef. Each strain on its own induced low virus loads and was nonpathogenic in rhesus monkeys. When injected simultaneously into separate legs of the same monkey, persistent high virus loads and declines in CD4+ lymphocyte concentrations were observed. Analysis of proviral DNA isolated directly from peripheral blood mononuclear cells showed that full-length, nondeleted SIVmac239 predominated by 2 weeks after infection. These results provide direct experimental evidence for genetic recombination between two different retroviral strains in an infected host. The results illustrate the ease and rapidity with which recombination can occur in an infected animal and the selection that can occur for variants generated by genetic recombination.


Copyright © American Society for Microbiology, Journal of Virology, 71(12), 1997, 9650-9653