The team explored a few genes from after the first 300 amino acids, according to paper in Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Mutations hidden in previously ignored parts of the HIV genome play an important role in the development of drug resistance in AIDS patients, report researchers from McGill University and B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

HIV genotyping is now widely established in HIV drug-resistance screening. For technical and economic reasons, however, the entire HIV genome is usually not sequenced.

“The focus has been on specific areas of the HIV genome where we expect these resistance-conferring mutations to occur,” says Matthias Götte, Ph.D., an associate professor in McGill’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, who led the study. “We focus on a particular sequence on an important gene from amino acid 1 to 300 and as such we miss roughly a third of this gene.

“Until recently, most researchers believed that this hidden area was of little clinical significance,” Dr. Götte notes. “Within the last few years, however, studies started to suggest that the first 300 amino acids alone may not completely describe the drug resistance landscape.

Dr. Götte and his colleagues selected a few of these previously uncharacterized mutations to study. “People were skeptical,” Dr. Götte remarks. “The mechanism about how these mutations could be involved in resistance was not clear. However, in our paper, we present data that explains in considerable detail how these mutations work.”

The research will be published in the August 8 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

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