Fixations of the HIV-1 env gene refute neutralism: New evidence for pan-selective evolution
We examined 103 nucleotide sequences of the HIV-1 env gene, sampled from 35 countries and tested: I) the random (neutral) distribution of the number of nucleotide changes; II) the proportion of bases at molecular equilibrium; III) the neutral expected homogeneity of the distribution of new fxated bases; IV) the hypothesis of the neighbor infuence on the mutation rates in a site. The expected random number of fxations per site was estimated by Bose-Einstein statistics, and the expected frequencies of bases by matrices of mutation-fxation rates. The homogeneity of new fxations was analyzed using χ2 and trinomial tests for homogeneity. Fixations of the central base in trinucleotides were used to test the neighbor infuence on base substitutions. Neither the number of fxations nor the frequencies of bases ftted the expected neutral distribution. There was a highly signifcant heterogeneity in the distribution of new fxations, and several sites showed more transversions than transitions, showing that each nucleotide site has its own pattern of change. These three independent results make the neutral theory, the nearly neutral and the neighbor infuence hypotheses untenable and indicate that evolution of env is rather highly selective.