Objectives and method: In order to characterize human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) variants that are transmitted in women via heterosexual intercourse, the env V1-V3 sequences of HIV-1 provirus (DNA) and free virus (RNA) in paired samples of blood and cervicovaginal secretions of untreated chronically and primary infected African women were compared.
Results: Env RNA sequences retrieved from plasma and genital compartments formed a single cluster in primary infection. In contrast, env RNA sequences from these two compartments were distinct in chronically infected women. Analysis of proviral DNA of primary infected women showed that most HIV-1 sequences derived from the genital epithelia form independent clusters from HIV-1 sequences of DNA from peripheral blood mononuclear cells and RNA recovered from plasma and genital secretions. Similarly, the analysis of proviral DNA in the genital compartment of chronically infected women showed the persistence of genetically-restricted cluster of HIV-1.
Conclusions: These observations indicate that a viral subpopulation is archived as proviral DNA in the female genital tract early in primary infection, and suggest that HIV-1 variants from the male donor are selected in the female mucosal site during male to female transmission of HIV-1.