HIV type 1 mother-to-child transmission facilitated by distinctive glycosylation sites in the gp120 envelope glycoprotein

Document Type



Population Health (East Africa)


The human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) characteristics associated with mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) are still poorly understood. We studied a cohort of 30 mothers from Rwanda infected with HIV-1 subtype A or C viruses of whom seven infected their children either during gestation or soon after birth. CD4 counts and viral load did not significantly differ between nontransmitting mother (NTM) versus transmitting mother (TM) groups. In contrast to earlier studies we not only analyzed and compared the genotypic characteristics of the V1-V5 region of the gp120 envelope of viruses found in TM and their infected children, but also included data from the NTM. No differences were found with respect to length and number of potential N-glycosylation sites (PNGS) in the V1-V2 and the V1-V5 region. We identified that viruses with a PNGS on positions AA234 and AA339 were preferably transmitted and that viruses with PNGS-N295 showed a disadvantage in transmission. We also showed that the frequency of PNGS-N339 in the viruses of TM and infected children was significantly higher than the frequency in NTM in our cohort and in viruses undergoing sexual transmission while the frequency of PNGS-N295 in children was significantly lower than the frequency in TM and acute horizontal infections. Collectively, our results provide evidence that the presence of the PNGS-N339 site and absence of the PNGS-N295 site in the gp120 envelope confers an advantage to HIV-1 when considering MTCT.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)

AIDS Research Human Retroviruses