Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 18308413
Virus Res. 2008 Jun;134(1-2):64-73
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) population is characterised by extensive genetic variability that results from high error and recombination rates of the reverse transcription process, and from the fast turnover of virions in HIV-infected individuals. Among the viral variants encountered at the global scale, recombinant forms are extremely abundant. Some of these recombinants (known as circulating recombinant forms) become fixed and undergo rapid expansion in the population. The reasons underlying their epidemiological success remain at present poorly understood and constitute a fascinating area for future research to improve our understanding of immune escape, pathogenicity and transmission. Recombinant viruses are generated during reverse transcription as a consequence of template switching between the two genetically different genomic RNAs present in a heterozygous virus. Recombination can thereby generate shortcuts in evolution by producing mosaic reverse transcription products of parental genomes. Therefore, in a single infectious cycle multiple mutations that are positively selected can be combined or, conversely, negatively selected mutations can be removed. Recombination is therefore involved in different aspects of HIV evolution, adaptation to its host, and escape from antiviral treatments.