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Experimental estimation of the effects of all amino-acid mutations to HIV Env

By Hugh K. Haddox, Adam S. Dingens, Jesse Bloom

Posted 02 Aug 2016
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/067470 (published DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1006114)

HIV is notorious for its capacity to evade immunity and anti-viral drugs through rapid sequence evolution. Knowledge of the functional effects of mutations to HIV is critical for understanding this evolution. HIV's most rapidly evolving protein is its envelope (Env). Here we use deep mutational scanning to experimentally estimate the effects of all amino-acid mutations to Env on viral replication in cell culture. Most mutations are under purifying selection in our experiments, although a few sites experience strong selection for mutations that enhance HIV's growth in cell culture. We compare our experimental measurements of each site's preference for each amino acid to the actual frequencies of these amino acids in naturally occurring HIV sequences. Our measured amino-acid preferences correlate with amino-acid frequencies in natural sequences for most sites. However, our measured preferences are less concordant with natural amino-acid frequencies at surface-exposed sites that are subject to pressures absent from our experiments such as antibody selection. We show that some regions of Env have a high inherent tolerance to mutation, whereas other regions (such as epitopes of broadly neutralizing antibodies) have a significantly reduced capacity to tolerate mutations. Overall, our results help disentangle the role of inherent functional constraints and external selection pressures in shaping Env's evolution.

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