Using nucleotide sequences from three genomic regions of the human and simian T-cell lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I/STLV-I)-consisting of 69 sequences from a 140-bp segment of the pol region, 98 sequences from a 503-bp segment of the LTR, and 154 sequences from a 386-bp segment of the env region-we tested two hypotheses concerning the geographic origin and evolution of STLV-I and HTLV-I. First, we tested the assumption of equal rates of evolution along STLV-I and HTLV-I lineages using a likelihood ratio test to ascertain whether current levels of genomic diversity can be used to determine ancestry. We demonstrated that unequal rates of evolution along HTLV-I and STLV-I lineages have occurred throughout evolutionary time, thus calling into question the use of pairwise distances to assign ancestry. Second, we constructed phylogenetic trees using multiple phylogenetic techniques to test for the geographic origin of STLV-I and HTLV-I. Using the principle of likelihood, we chose a statistically justified model of evolution for each data set. We demonstrated the utility of the likelihood ratio test to determine which model of evolution should be chosen for phylogenetic analyses, revealing that using different models of evolution produces conflicting results, and neither the hypothesis of an African origin nor the hypothesis of an Asian origin can be rejected statistically. Our best estimates of phylogenetic relationships, however, support an African origin of PTLV for each gene region.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.