The envelope glycoprotein of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) interacts with receptors on the target cell and mediates virus entry by fusing the viral and cell membranes. To maintain the viral infectivity, amino acids that interact with receptors are expected to be more conserved than the other sites on the protein surface. In contrast to the functional constraint of amino acids for the receptor binding, some amino acid changes in this protein may produce antigenic variations that enable the virus to escape from recognition of the host immune system. Therefore, both positive selection (higher fitness) and negative selection (lower fitness) against amino acid changes are taking place during evolution of surface proteins of parasites To elucidate the evolutionary mechanisms of the whole HIV-1 gp120 envelope glycoprotein at the single site level, we collected and analyzed all available sequence data for the protein. By analyzing 186 sequences of the HIV-1 gp120 (subtype B), we reevaluated amino acid variability at the single site level, and estimated the numbers of synonymous and nonsynonymous substitutions at each codon position to detect positive and negative selection. We identified 33 amino acid positions which may be under positive selection. Some of these positions may form discontinuous epitopes. We also analyzed amino acid sequences to find amino acid positions responsible for usage of the second receptor. We found that, in addition to the V3 loop, amino acid variation at residue 440 in C4 region is clearly linked with the usage of CXCR 4.
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