To clarify the relationship between the amino acid variations of the gp120 of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and the chemokine receptors that are used as the second receptor for HIV, we evaluated amino acid site variation of gp120 between the X4 strains (use CXCR4) and the R5 strains (use CCR5) from 21 sequences of subtype B. Our analysis showed that residues 306 and 322 in the V3 loop and residue 440 in the C4 region were associated with usage of the second receptor. The polymorphism at residue 440 is clearly associated with the usage of the second receptor: The amino acid at position 440 was a basic amino acid in the R5 strains, and a nonbasic and smaller amino acid in the X4 strains, while the V3 loop of the X4 strains was more basic than that of the R5 strains. This suggests that residue 440 in the C4 region, which is close to the V3 loop in the three-dimensional structure, is critical in determining which second receptor is used. Analysis of codon frequency suggests that, in almost all cases, the difference at residue 440 between basic amino acids in the R5 strains and nonbasic amino acids in the X4 strains could be due to a single nucleotide change. These findings predict that the evolutionary changes in amino acid residue 440 may be correlated with evolutionary changes in the V3 loop. One possibility is that a change in electric charge at residue 440 compensates for a change in electric charge in the V3 loop. The amino acid polymorphism at position 440 can be useful to predict the cell tropism of a strain of HIV-1 subtype B.
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