To better understand the mechanism of HIV group-specific antigen (Gag) and protease (PR) co-evolution in drug-resistance acquisition, we analyzed a drug-resistance case by both bioinformatics and virological methods. We especially considered the quality of sequence data and analytical accuracy by introducing single-genome sequencing (SGS) and Spidermonkey/Bayesian graphical models (BGM) analysis, respectively. We analyzed 129 HIV-1 Gag-PR linkage sequences obtained from 8 time points, and the resulting sequences were applied to the Spidermonkey co-evolution analysis program, which identified ten mutation pairs as significantly co-evolving. Among these, we focused on associations between Gag-P453L, the P5' position of the p1/p6 cleavage-site mutation, and PR-D30N/N88D nelfinavir-resistant mutations, and attempted to clarify their virological significance in vitro by constructing recombinant clones. The results showed that P453LGag has the potential to improve replication capacity and the Gag processing efficiency of viruses with D30NPR/N88DPR but has little effect on nelfinavir susceptibility. Homology modeling analysis suggested that hydrogen bonds between the 30th PR residue and the R452Gag are disturbed by the D30NPR mutation, but the impaired interaction is compensated by P453LGag generating new hydrophobic interactions. Furthermore, database analysis indicated that the P453LGag/D30NPR/N88DPR association was not specific only to our clinical case, but was common among AIDS patients.
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