Domestic cats develop an asymptomatic, productive infection with a feline immunodeficiency virus (PLV) derived from a naturally infected cougar (P. concolor). We previously demonstrated that there are extensive G to A substitutions, characteristic of host cytidine deaminase editing, and positive selection on reverse transcriptase in the PLV genome during this cross-species infection. In this study, we evaluated full-length viral genomes from each of four cats infected with PLV to determine if viral recombination occurred during this single source infection. Recombination rates were measurable in three of the four infected cats. In two of these animals, a single site in reverse transcriptase was under positive selection and there was significant topological incongruence among individual genes in the 3′ half of the genomes. The break point was proximate to a splice site used for accessory gene expression. Our data indicate that recombination can facilitate lentivirus persistence in unfavorable environments such as a new host species.
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