To study human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) compartmentalization between intestine and blood, paired faecal and serum samples were collected from 204 HIV-1-infected persons. Direct sequencing of the gp120 V3 region obtained from 33 persons showed that faecal and serum sequences could be nearly homologous (0.3% different) or very dissimilar (11.3% different). Individual clones were obtained and sequenced from the faecal and serum samples of 13 persons. In 6 persons the HIV-1 subpopulations in faeces and serum were similar, whereas in 7 persons, distribution of V3 genotypes showed a marked difference. Genetic characterization of the HIV-1 subpopulations showed less heterogeneity in faecal subpopulations than in serum subpopulations in 5 of the 7 subjects. Furthermore, faecal and serum subpopulations differed predominantly by nonsynonymous nucleotide substitutions (in 6 of 7 persons). Comparison of the HIV-1 subpopulations in faeces and serum of these 7 persons, using resampling techniques, revealed a significant difference between faecal and serum subpopulations at an N-linked glycosylation site, C-terminal of the V3 loop (amino acids 331-333). Sequences from faecal subpopulations of all 7 persons contained a glycosylation site at amino acid position 331-333. Four of these 7 harboured serum variants lacking a glycosylation site at this position. The faecal subpopulations in these 4 persons showed limited nonsynonymous substitutions compared to synonymous substitutions, indicating that purifying selection is operational on these subpopulations.


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