The evolution of proviral gp120 during the first year after seroconversion in HIV-1 subtype C infection was addressed in a case series of eight subjects. Multiple viral variants were found in two out of eight cases. Slow rate of viral RNA decline and high early viral RNA set point were associated with a higher level of proviral diversity from 0 to 200 days after seroconversion. Proviral divergence from MRCA over the same period also differed between subjects with slow and fast decline of viral RNA, suggesting that evolution of proviral gp120 early in infection may be linked to the level of viral RNA replication. Changes in the length of variable loops were minimal, and length reduction was more common than length increase. Potential N-linked glycosylation sites ranged ± one site, showing common fluctuations in the V4 and V5 loops. These results highlight the role of proviral gp120 diversity and diversification in the pathogenesis of acute HIV-1 subtype C infection.
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