Topological perspective on HIV escape

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Science  03 May 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6439, pp. 438-439
DOI: 10.1126/science.aax4989

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Untreated HIV-1 infection has a variable outcome. Some patients progress to AIDS within a few months, whereas others survive for years; a very few even resist progression for decades. The rate of AIDS progression is affected by variation in the genes that encode a patient's human leukocyte antigen (HLA) proteins (13). This genetic association between HLA and AIDS progression has been attributed to differences in T cell recognition of HLA-bound HIV-derived peptide epitopes. The virus can variably escape immune detection by generating mutations within the peptide epitopes (4). On page 480 of this issue, Gaiha et al. (5) explain variation in HIV immune escape by examining each epitope in the context of HIV protein structure, using network theory analysis. The authors found that epitopes containing amino acids with multiple interactions within the three-dimensional structure of an HIV protein are constrained from escape and tend to bind to protective HLA types.