HIV-1-associated brain pathology exhibits regional variability and we therefore studied the genetic differences in the V1-V5 domains of the HIV env gene in up to four regions of brain (frontal lobe, basal ganglia, medial temporal lobe, and nonmedial temporal lobe) from three patients. We found that in each separate brain region HIV-1 forms different quasispecies and that there is little gene flow among these regions. In further support of brain region-specific evolution of HIV-1, we analyzed amino acid signatures in these clones. In addition to known amino acid signatures associated with macrophage tropism and the lack of syncytium formation, we found 15 majority amino acid signature patterns from the V1-V5 env sequences associated with the neuroanatomical regions analyzed from the three individuals. Furthermore, on average, intrabrain genetic distances for the HIV-1 env were estimated to be much smaller than genetic distances between brain regions. Specific strains of HIV-1 may be neurotropic or neuroinvasive (replication preference in brain tissue) and may contribute to pathology, cognitive loss, and neuropsychiatric disease.
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