We analyzed by PCR and direct sequencing 57 viral sequences from 47 individuals infected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1, focussing on the V1 and V2 regions of gp120. There was extensive length polymorphism in the V1 region, which rendered sequence alignment difficult. The V2 hypervariable locus also displayed considerable length variations, whereas flanking regions were relatively conserved. Two-thirds of the amino acid residues in these flanking regions were highly conserved (> 80%), presumably reflecting their critical contribution to V2 structure or function. We also characterized the syncytium-inducing properties of the isolates from which we derived sequence information. There was no correlation between V1 or V2 sequences and the viral phenotype, contrary to a previous report (M. Groenink, R. A. M. Fouchier, S. Broersen, C. H. Baker, M. Koot, A. B. van't Wout, H. G. Huisman, F. Miedema, M. Tersmette, and H. Schuitemaker, Science 260:1513-1516, 1993). The sequence heterogeneity described in this study provides information to suggest that it would be most difficult to exploit the V1 and V2 domains for vaccine development
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