Journal article Open Access

Timing the ancestor of the HIV-1 pandemic strains

Muldoon, M.; Theiler, J.; Lapedes, A.; Wolinsky, S.; Gao, F.; Gupta, R.; Korber, B.; Hahn, Bh H.; Bhattacharya, T.

HIV-1 sequences were analyzed to estimate the timing of the ancestral sequence of the main group of HIV-1, the strains responsible for the AIDS pandemic. Using parallel supercomputers and assuming a constant rate of evolution, we applied maximum-likelihood phylogenetic methods to unprecedented amounts of data for this calculation. We validated our approach by correctly estimating the timing of two historically documented points. Using a comprehensive full-length envelope sequence alignment, we estimated the date of the last common ancestor of the main group of HIV-1 to be 1931 (1915-41). Analysis of a gag gene alignment, subregions of envelope including additional sequences, and a method that relaxed the assumption of a strict molecular clock also supported these results.
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