Among the major circulating HIV-1 subtypes, subtype C is the most prevalent. To generate full-length sub-type C clones and sequences, we selected 13 primary (PBMC-derived) isolates from Zambia, India, Tanzania, South Africa, Brazil, and China, which were identified as subtype C by partial sequence analysis. Near full-length viral genomes were amplified by using a long PCR technique, sequenced in their entirety, and phylogenetically analyzed. Amino acid sequence analysis revealed 10.2, 6.3, and 17.3% diversity in predicted Gag, Pol, and Env protein sequences. Ten of 13 viruses were nonmosaic subtype C genomes, while all three isolates from China represented B/C recombinants. One of them was composed primarily of subtype C sequences with three small subtype B portions in gag, pol, and nef genes. Two others exhibited these same mosaic regions, but contained two additional subtype B portions at the gag/pol overlap and in the accessory gene region, suggesting ongoing B/C recombination in China. All subtype C genomes contained a prematurely truncated second exon of rev, but other previously proposed subtype C signatures, including three potential NF-κB-binding sites in the viral promoter-enhancer regions, were found in only a subset of these genomes.
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