Virus-specific CD8 + T lymphocytes select for escape mutations in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV). To assess the effects of these mutations on viral fitness, we introduced escape mutations into 30 epitopes (bound by five major histocompatibility complex class I [MHC-I] molecules) in three different viruses. Two of these MHC-I alleles are associated with elite control. Two of the three viruses demonstrated reduced fitness in vivo, and 27% of the introduced mutations reverted. These findings suggest that T cell epitope diversity may not be such a daunting problem for the development of an HIV vaccine.
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