Genetic variability of the U5 and downstream sequence of major HIV-1 subtypes and circulating recombinant forms.


The critical role of the regulatory elements at the 5' end of the HIV-1 genome in controlling the life cycle of HIV-1 indicates that this region significantly influences virus fitness and its biological properties. In this study, we performed a detailed characterization of strain-specific variability of sequences from the U5 to upstream of the gag gene start codon of diverse HIV-1 strains by using next-generation sequencing (NGS) techniques. Overall, we found that this region of the HIV-1 genome displayed a low degree of intra-strain variability. On the other hand, inter-strain variability was found to be as high as that reported for gag and env genes (13-17%). We observed strain-specific single point and clustered mutations in the U5, PBS, and gag leader sequences (GLS), generating potential strain-specific transcription factor binding sites (TFBS). Using an infrared gel shift assay, we demonstrated the presence of potential TFBS such as E-box in CRF22_01A, and Stat 6 in subtypes A and G, as well as in their related CRFs. The strain-specific variation found in the sequence corresponding at the RNA level to functional domains of the 5' UTR, could also potentially impact the secondary/tertiary structural rearrangement of this region. Thus, the variability observed in this 5' end of the genomic region of divergent HIV-1 strains strongly suggests that functions of this region might be affected in a strain-specific manner. Our findings provide new insights into DNA-protein interactions that regulate HIV-1 replication and the influence of strain characterization on the biology of HIV-1 infection.






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Publication Info

Mbondji-Wonje, Christelle, Ming Dong, Jiangqin Zhao, Xue Wang, Aubin Nanfack, Viswanath Ragupathy, Ana M Sanchez, Thomas N Denny, et al. (2020). Genetic variability of the U5 and downstream sequence of major HIV-1 subtypes and circulating recombinant forms. Scientific reports, 10(1). p. 13214. 10.1038/s41598-020-70083-1 Retrieved from

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Thomas Norton Denny

Professor in Medicine

Thomas N. Denny, MSc, M.Phil, is the Chief Operating Officer of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute (DHVI), Associate Dean for Duke Research and Discovery @RTP, and a Professor of Medicine in the Department of Medicine at Duke University Medical Center. He is also an Affiliate Member of the Duke Global Health Institute. Previously, he served on the Health Sector Advisory Council of the Duke University Fuquay School of Business. Prior to joining Duke, he was an Associate Professor of Pathology, Laboratory Medicine and Pediatrics, Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine and Community Health and Assistant Dean for Research in Health Policy at the New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey. He has served on numerous committees for the NIH over the last two decades and currently is the principal investigator of an NIH portfolio in excess of 65 million dollars. Mr. Denny was a 2002-2003 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellow at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (IOM). As a fellow, he served on the US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee with legislation/policy responsibilities in global AIDS, bioterrorism, clinical trials/human subject protection and vaccine related-issues.

As the Chief Operating Officer of the DHVI, Mr. Denny has senior oversight of the DHVI research portfolio and the units/teams that support the DHVI mission. He has extensive international experience and previously was a consultant to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) project to oversee the development of an HIV and Public Health Center of Excellence laboratory network in Guyana. In September 2004, the IOM appointed him as a consultant to their Board on Global Health Committee studying the options for overseas placement of U.S. health professionals and the development of an assessment plan for activities related to the 2003 PEPFAR legislative act. In the 1980s, Mr. Denny helped establish a small laboratory in the Republic of Kalmykia (former Soviet Union) to improve the care of children with HIV/AIDS and served as a Board Member of the Children of Chernobyl Relief Fund Foundation. In 2005, Mr. Denny was named a consulting medical/scientific officer to the WHO Global AIDS Program in Geneva. He has also served as program reviewers for the governments of the Netherlands and South Africa as well as an advisor to several U.S. biotech companies. He currently serves as the Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board for Grid Biosciences.

Mr. Denny has authored and co-authored more than 200 peer-reviewed papers and serves on the editorial board of Communications in Cytometry and Journal of Clinical Virology. He holds an M.Sc in Molecular and Biomedical Immunology from the University of East London and a degree in Medical Law (M.Phil) from the Institute of Law and Ethics in Medicine, School of Law, University of Glasgow. In 1991, he completed a course of study in Strategic Management at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. In 1993, he completed the Program for Advanced Training in Biomedical Research Management at Harvard School of Public Health. In December 2005, he was inducted as a Fellow into the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the oldest medical society in the US.

While living in New Jersey, Mr. Denny was active in his community, gaining additional experience from two publicly elected positions. In 2000, Mr. Denny was selected by the New Jersey League of Municipalities to Chair the New Jersey Community Mental Health Citizens’ Advisory Board and Mental Health Planning Council as a gubernatorial appointment.

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