Mutational correlation patterns found in population-level sequence data for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) have been demonstrated to be informative of viral fitness. Such patterns can be seen as footprints of the intrinsic functional constraints placed on viral evolution under diverse selective pressures. Here, considering multiple HIV and HCV proteins, we demonstrate that these mutational correlations encode a modular co-evolutionary structure that is tightly linked to the structural and functional properties of the respective proteins. Specifically, by introducing a robust statistical method based on sparse principal component analysis, we identify near-disjoint sets of collectively-correlated residues (sectors) having mostly a one-to-one association to largely distinct structural or functional domains. This suggests that the distinct phenotypic properties of HIV/HCV proteins often give rise to quasi-independent modes of evolution, with each mode involving a sparse and localized network of mutational interactions. Moreover, individual inferred sectors of HIV are shown to carry immunological significance, providing insight for guiding targeted vaccine strategies.
Quadeer, A. A., Morales-Jimenez, D., & McKay, M. R. (2018). Co-evolution networks of HIV/HCV are modular with direct association to structure and function. PLoS Computational Biology, 14(9), 1-29. [e1006409]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1006409