© 2015 Roy et al. Evolutionary characteristics of HIV-1 have mostly studied focusing its structural genes, Gag, Pol and Env. However, regarding the process of HIV-1's evolution, few studies emphasize on genetic changes in regulatory proteins. Here we investigate the evolutionary dynamics of HIV-1, targeting one of its important regulatory proteins, Tat. We performed a phylogenetic analysis and employed a Bayesian coalescent-based approach using the BEAST package to investigate the evolutionary changes in Tat over time in the process of HIV-1 evolution. HIV-1 sequences of subtypes B and C from different parts of the world were obtained from the Los Alamos database. The mean estimated nucleotide substitution rates for Tat in HIV-1 subtypes B and C were 1.53×10 < sup > -3 < /sup > (95% highest probability density-HPD Interval: 1.09 ×10 < sup > -3 < /sup > to 2.08×10 < sup > -3 < /sup > ) and 2.14×10 < sup > -3 < /sup > (95% HPD Interval: 1.35 ×10 < sup > -3 < /sup > to 2.91×10 < sup > -3 < /sup > ) per site per year, respectively, which is relatively low compared to structural proteins. The median times of the most recent common ancestors (tMRCA) were estimated to be around 1933 (95% HPD, 1907-1952) and 1956 (95% HPD, 1934-1970) for subtypes B and C, respectively. Our analysis shows that subtype C appeared in the global population two decades after the introduction of subtype B. A Gaussian Markov random field (GMRF) skyride coalescent analysis demonstrates that the early expansion rate of subtype B was quite high, rapidly progressing during the 1960s and 1970s to the early 1990s, after which the rate increased up to the 2010s. In contrast, HIV-1 subtype C exhibited a relatively slow occurrence rate until the late 1980s when there was a sharp increase up to the end of 1990s; thereafter, the rate of occurrence gradually slowed. Our study highlights the importance of examining the internal/regulatory genes of HIV-1 to understand its complete evolutionary dynamics. The study results will therefore contribute to better understanding of HIV-1 evolution.
Roy, C. N., Khandaker, I., & Oshitani, H. (2015). Evolutionary dynamics of Tat in HIV-1 subtypes B and C. PLoS ONE, 10(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0129896