Site-specific evolutionary rate shifts are defined as protein sites, where the rate of substitution has changed dramatically across the phylogeny. With respect to a given clade, sites may either undergo a rate acceleration or a rate deceleration, reflecting a site that was conserved and became variable, or vice-versa, respectively. Sites displaying such a dramatic evolutionary change may point to a loss or gain of function at the protein site, reflecting adaptation, or they may indicate epistatic interactions among sites. Here, we analyzed full genomes of HIV and SIV-1 and identified 271 rate-shifting sites along the HIV-1/SIV phylogeny. The majority of rate shifts occurred at long branches, often corresponding to cross-species transmission branches. We noted that in most proteins, the number of rate accelerations and decelerations was equal, and we suggest that this reflects epistatic interactions among sites. However, several accessory proteins were enriched for either accelerations or decelerations, and we suggest that this may be a signature of adaptation to new hosts. Interestingly, the non-pandemic HIV-1 group O clade exhibited a substantially higher number of rate-shift events than the pandemic group M clade. We propose that this may be a reflection of the height of the species barrier between gorillas and humans versus chimpanzees and humans. Our results provide a genome-wide view of the constraints operating on proteins of HIV-1 and SIV.
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