With increasing data on HIV-1, a more relevant molecular model describing mechanism details of HIV-1 genetic recombination usually requires upgrades. Currently an incomplete structural understanding of the copy choice mechanism along with several other issues in the field that lack elucidation led us to perform an analysis of the correlation between breakpoint distributions and (1) the probability of base pairing, and (2) intersubtype genetic similarity to further explore structural mechanisms.
Near full length sequences of URFs from Asia, Europe, and Africa (one sequence/patient), and representative sequences of worldwide CRFs were retrieved from the Los Alamos HIV database. Their recombination patterns were analyzed by jpHMM in detail. Then the relationships between breakpoint distributions and (1) the probability of base pairing, and (2) intersubtype genetic similarities were investigated.
Pearson correlation test showed that all URF groups and the CRF group exhibit the same breakpoint distribution pattern. Additionally, the Wilcoxon two-sample test indicated a significant and inexplicable limitation of recombination in regions with high pairing probability. These regions have been found to be strongly conserved across distinct biological states (i.e., strong intersubtype similarity), and genetic similarity has been determined to be a very important factor promoting recombination. Thus, the results revealed an unexpected disagreement between intersubtype similarity and breakpoint distribution, which were further confirmed by genetic similarity analysis. Our analysis reveals a critical conflict between results from natural HIV-1 isolates and those from HIV-1-based assay vectors in which genetic similarity has been shown to be a very critical factor promoting recombination.
These results indicate the region with high-pairing probabilities may be a more fundamental factor affecting HIV-1 recombination than sequence similarity in natural HIV-1 infections. Our findings will be relevant in furthering the understanding of HIV-1 recombination mechanisms.