Back to the future: Revisiting HIV-1 lethal mutagenesis

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28 Scopus citations


The concept of eliminating HIV-1 infectivity by elevating the viral mutation rate was first proposed over a decade ago, even though the general concept had been conceived earlier for RNA viruses. Lethal mutagenesis was originally viewed as a novel chemotherapeutic approach for treating HIV-1 infection in which use of a viral mutagen would over multiple rounds of replication lead to the lethal accumulation of mutations, rendering the virus population noninfectious - known as the slow mutation accumulation model. There have been limitations in obtaining good efficacy data with drug leads, leaving some doubt on clinical translation. More recent studies of the apolipoprotein B mRNA editing complex 3 (APOBEC3) proteins as well as new progress in the use of nucleoside analogs for inducing lethal mutagenesis have helped to refocus attention on rapid induction of HIV-1 lethal mutagenesis in a single or limited number of replication cycles leading to a rapid mutation accumulation model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)56-62
Number of pages7
JournalTrends in Microbiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by National Institutes of Health (NIH) R01 GM56615, a Center for Drug Design Funding Agreement, and a University of Minnesota Academic Health Center Translational Research Grant. M.J.D. was supported by NIH T32 DA007097.


  • Error catastrophe
  • Evolution
  • Extinction catastrophe
  • Hypermutation
  • Quasispecies
  • Retrovirus


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