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1.  Differential Evolutionary Fate of an Ancestral Primate Endogenous Retrovirus Envelope Gene, the EnvV Syncytin, Captured for a Function in Placentation 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(3):e1003400.
Syncytins are envelope genes of retroviral origin that have been co-opted for a role in placentation. They promote cell–cell fusion and are involved in the formation of a syncytium layer—the syncytiotrophoblast—at the materno-fetal interface. They were captured independently in eutherian mammals, and knockout mice demonstrated that they are absolutely required for placenta formation and embryo survival. Here we provide evidence that these “necessary” genes acquired “by chance” have a definite lifetime with diverse fates depending on the animal lineage, being both gained and lost in the course of evolution. Analysis of a retroviral envelope gene, the envV gene, present in primate genomes and belonging to the endogenous retrovirus type V (ERV-V) provirus, shows that this captured gene, which entered the primate lineage >45 million years ago, behaves as a syncytin in Old World monkeys, but lost its canonical fusogenic activity in other primate lineages, including humans. In the Old World monkeys, we show—by in situ analyses and ex vivo assays—that envV is both specifically expressed at the level of the placental syncytiotrophoblast and fusogenic, and that it further displays signs of purifying selection based on analysis of non-synonymous to synonymous substitution rates. We further show that purifying selection still operates in the primate lineages where the gene is no longer fusogenic, indicating that degeneracy of this ancestral syncytin is a slow, lineage-dependent, and multi-step process, in which the fusogenic activity would be the first canonical property of this retroviral envelope gene to be lost.
Author Summary
Syncytins are “new” genes encoding the envelope protein of captured endogenous retroviral elements. Their unambiguous status of “cellular gene” was recently demonstrated by knocking them out in genetically modified mice, showing their absolute requirement for placenta formation and embryo survival, via formation by cell–cell fusion of the feto-maternal syncytium interface. These genes are remarkable, as they are “necessary” for a basic function in placental mammals and yet they were acquired “by chance” on multiple occasions and independently in diverse mammalian species. We proposed that syncytins have been pivotal for the emergence of animals with a placenta from those laying eggs via the capture of a founding retroviral env gene, then subsequently replaced in the diverse mammalian lineages upon successive and independent germline infections by new retroviruses and co-optation of their env gene, each new gene providing its host with a positive selective advantage. This hypothesis would account for the diversity of the captured syncytins that can be currently found, concomitant with the diversity of placental architectures. A consequence of this paradigm is that evidence for “decaying syncytins” in eutherian mammals should exist, and this is precisely what we sought—and found—in this study.
PMCID: PMC3610889  PMID: 23555306
2.  Functional characterization of two newly identified Human Endogenous Retrovirus coding envelope genes 
Retrovirology  2005;2:19.
A recent in silico search for coding sequences of retroviral origin present in the human genome has unraveled two new envelope genes that add to the 16 genes previously identified. A systematic search among the latter for a fusogenic activity had led to the identification of two bona fide genes, named syncytin-1 and syncytin-2, most probably co-opted by primate genomes for a placental function related to the formation of the syncytiotrophoblast by cell-cell fusion. Here, we show that one of the newly identified envelope gene, named envP(b), is fusogenic in an ex vivo assay, but that its expression – as quantified by real-time RT-PCR on a large panel of human tissues – is ubiquitous, albeit with a rather low value in most tissues. Conversely, the second envelope gene, named envV, discloses a placenta-specific expression, but is not fusogenic in any of the cells tested. Altogether, these results suggest that at least one of these env genes may play a role in placentation, but most probably through a process different from that of the two previously identified syncytins.
PMCID: PMC555746  PMID: 15766379
3.  Human endogenous retrovirus-FRD envelope protein (syncytin 2) expression in normal and trisomy 21-affected placenta 
Retrovirology  2008;5:6.
Human trophoblast expresses two fusogenic retroviral envelope proteins, the widely studied syncytin 1, encoded by HERV-W and the recently characterized syncytin 2 encoded by HERV-FRD. Here we studied syncytin 2 in normal and Trisomy 21-affected placenta associated with abnormal trophoblast differentiation. Syncytin 2 immunolocalization was restricted throughout normal pregnancy to some villous cytotrophoblastic cells (CT). During the second trimester of pregnancy, syncytin 2 was immunolocalized in some cuboidal CT in T21 placentas, whereas in normal placentas it was observed in flat CT, extending into their cytoplasmic processes. In vitro, CT isolated from normal placenta fuse and differentiate into syncytiotrophoblast. At the same time, syncytin 2 transcript levels decreased significantly with syncytiotrophoblast formation. In contrast, CT isolated from T21-affected placentas fused and differentiated poorly and no variation in syncytin 2 transcript levels was observed. Syncytin 2 expression illustrates the abnormal trophoblast differentiation observed in placenta of fetal T21-affected pregnancies.
PMCID: PMC2245979  PMID: 18215254
4.  Comprehensive search for intra- and inter-specific sequence polymorphisms among coding envelope genes of retroviral origin found in the human genome: genes and pseudogenes 
BMC Genomics  2005;6:117.
The human genome carries a high load of proviral-like sequences, called Human Endogenous Retroviruses (HERVs), which are the genomic traces of ancient infections by active retroviruses. These elements are in most cases defective, but open reading frames can still be found for the retroviral envelope gene, with sixteen such genes identified so far. Several of them are conserved during primate evolution, having possibly been co-opted by their host for a physiological role.
To characterize further their status, we presently sequenced 12 of these genes from a panel of 91 Caucasian individuals. Genomic analyses reveal strong sequence conservation (only two non synonymous Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms [SNPs]) for the two HERV-W and HERV-FRD envelope genes, i.e. for the two genes specifically expressed in the placenta and possibly involved in syncytiotrophoblast formation. We further show – using an ex vivo fusion assay for each allelic form – that none of these SNPs impairs the fusogenic function. The other envelope proteins disclose variable polymorphisms, with the occurrence of a stop codon and/or frameshift for most – but not all – of them. Moreover, the sequence conservation analysis of the orthologous genes that can be found in primates shows that three env genes have been maintained in a fully coding state throughout evolution including envW and envFRD.
Altogether, the present study strongly suggests that some but not all envelope encoding sequences are bona fide genes. It also provides new tools to elucidate the possible role of endogenous envelope proteins as susceptibility factors in a number of pathologies where HERVs have been suspected to be involved.
PMCID: PMC1236922  PMID: 16150157
5.  Identification of an endogenous retroviral envelope gene with fusogenic activity and placenta-specific expression in the rabbit: a new "syncytin" in a third order of mammals 
Retrovirology  2009;6:107.
Syncytins are envelope genes of retroviral origin that have been co-opted by the host to mediate a specialized function in placentation. Two of these genes have already been identified in primates, as well as two distinct, non orthologous genes in rodents.
Here we identified within the rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus-which belongs to the lagomorpha order- an envelope (env) gene of retroviral origin with the characteristic features of a bona fide syncytin, that we named syncytin-Ory1. An in silico search for full-length env genes with an uninterrupted open reading frame within the rabbit genome first identified two candidate genes that were tested for their specific expression in the placenta by quantitative RT-PCR of RNA isolated from a large set of tissues. This resulted in the identification of an env gene with placenta-specific expression and belonging to a family of endogenous retroelements present at a limited copy number in the rabbit genome. Functional characterization of the identified placenta-expressed env gene after cloning in a CMV-driven expression vector and transient transfection experiments, demonstrated both fusogenic activity in an ex vivo cell-cell fusion assay and infectivity of pseudotypes. The receptor for the rabbit syncytin-Ory1 was found to be the same as that for human syncytin-1, i.e. the previously identified ASCT2 transporter. This was demonstrated by a co-culture fusion assay between hamster A23 cells transduced with an expression vector for ASCT2 and A23 cells transduced with syncytin-Ory1. Finally, in situ hybridization of rabbit placenta sections with a syncytin-Ory1 probe revealed specific expression at the level of the junctional zone between the placental lobe and the maternal decidua, where the invading syncytial fetal tissue contacts the maternal decidua to form the labyrinth, consistent with a role in the formation of the syncytiotrophoblast. The syncytin-Ory1 gene is found in Leporidae but not in Ochotonidae, and should therefore have entered the lagomorpha order 12-30 million years ago.
The identification of a novel syncytin gene within a third order of mammals displaying syncytiotrophoblast formation during placentation strongly supports the notion that on several occasions retroviral infections have resulted in the independent capture of genes that have been positively selected for a convergent physiological role.
PMCID: PMC2789053  PMID: 19943933
6.  Direct Involvement of HERV-W Env Glycoprotein in Human Trophoblast Cell Fusion and Differentiation 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2003;23(10):3566-3574.
We recently demonstrated that the product of the HERV-W env gene, a retroviral envelope protein also dubbed syncytin, is a highly fusogenic membrane glycoprotein inducing the formation of syncytia on interaction with the type D mammalian retrovirus receptor. In addition, the detection of HERV-W Env protein (Env-W) expression in placental tissue sections led us to propose a role for this fusogenic glycoprotein in placenta formation. To evaluate this hypothesis, we analyzed the involvement of Env-W in the differentiation of primary cultures of human villous cytotrophoblasts that spontaneously differentiate by cell fusion into syncytiotrophoblasts in vitro. First, we observed that HERV-W env mRNA and glycoprotein expression are colinear with primary cytotrophoblast differentiation and with expression of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a marker of syncytiotrophoblast formation. Second, we observed that in vitro stimulation of trophoblast cell fusion and differentiation by cyclic AMP is also associated with a concomitant increase in HERV-W env and hCG mRNA and protein expression. Finally, by using specific antisense oligonucleotides, we demonstrated that inhibition of Env-W protein expression leads to a decrease of trophoblast fusion and differentiation, with the secretion of hCG in culture medium of antisense oligonucleotide-treated cells being decreased by fivefold. Taken together, these results strongly support a direct role for Env-W in human trophoblast cell fusion and differentiation.
PMCID: PMC164757  PMID: 12724415
7.  Survey of Human Genes of Retroviral Origin: Identification and Transcriptome of the Genes with Coding Capacity for Complete Envelope Proteins 
Journal of Virology  2003;77(19):10414-10422.
Sequences of retroviral origin occupy approximately 8% of the human genome. Most of these “retroviral” genes have lost their coding capacities since their entry into our ancestral genome millions of years ago, but some reading frames have remained open, suggesting positive selection. The complete sequencing of the human genome allowed a systematic search for retroviral envelope genes containing an open reading frame and resulted in the identification of 16 genes that we have characterized. We further showed, by quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR using specifically devised primers which discriminate between coding and noncoding elements, that all 16 genes are expressed in at least some healthy human tissues, albeit at highly different levels. All envelope genes disclose significant expression in the testis, three of them have a very high level of expression in the placenta, and a fourth is expressed in the thyroid. Besides their primary role as key molecules for viral entry, the envelope genes of retroviruses can induce cell-cell fusion, elicit immunosuppressive effects, and even protect against infection, and as such, endogenous retroviral envelope proteins have been tentatively identified in several reports as being involved in both normal and pathological processes. The present study provides a comprehensive survey of candidate genes and tools for a precise evaluation of their involvement in these processes.
PMCID: PMC228468  PMID: 12970426
8.  Functional interactions between monomers of the retroviral envelope protein complex. 
Journal of Virology  1997;71(9):6967-6972.
Retroviral vectors have been widely used in human gene therapy protocols. Entry into target cells is directed by the retroviral envelope protein, with receptor binding and postbinding fusion functions contributed mainly by the SU and TM subunits, respectively. We have generated mutants of the Moloney murine leukemia virus (MoMuLV) envelope protein with mutations in both the receptor binding domain of SU and throughout the TM subunit that are functionally inactive when expressed individually. However, the coexpression of these two classes of mutants partially restores envelope protein function and allows transduction. Several lines of evidence indicate that this complementation occurs in trans within envelope protein heterooligomers. The finding that the binding and postbinding functions of a retroviral envelope protein can be contributed by two different monomers should assist in the engineering of envelope proteins for tissue-specific gene delivery.
PMCID: PMC191981  PMID: 9261425
9.  Identification of Novel Endogenous Betaretroviruses Which Are Transcribed in the Bovine Placenta ▿  
Journal of Virology  2010;85(3):1237-1245.
Sequences of retroviral origin occupy approximately 10% of mammalian genomes. Various infectious endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) and functional retroviral elements have been reported for several mammals but not cattle. Here, we identified two proviruses, designated bovine endogenous retrovirus K1 (BERV-K1) and BERV-K2, containing full-length envelope (env) genes in the bovine genome. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that they belong to the genus Betaretrovirus. By reverse transcription (RT)-PCR, both BERV-K1 and -K2 env mRNAs were detected in the placenta and cultured bovine trophoblast cells. Real-time RT-PCR analysis using RNAs isolated from various bovine tissues revealed that BERV-K1 env mRNA was preferentially expressed in the placenta. Moreover, we also found the expression of doubly spliced transcripts, named the REBK1 and REBK2 genes. Both the REBK1 and REBK2 proteins have motifs for a putative nuclear localization signal and a nuclear export signal. REBK1 and REBK2 fused with green fluorescent proteins were localized mainly in the nuclei when they were expressed in bovine and porcine cells. In the env and 3′ long terminal repeats of BERV-K1 and -K2, we found regulatory elements responsible for the splicing and transport of viral RNAs and/or translation of the env genes. Although we have not identified the expressed Env proteins in bovine tissues, these data suggest that both BERV-K1 and BERV-K2 express Env proteins and that these proteins may have physiological functions in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3020495  PMID: 21084469
10.  Functional Analysis of the Endogenous Retroviral Promoter of the Human Endothelin B Receptor Gene 
Journal of Virology  2003;77(13):7459-7466.
We previously reported that the long terminal repeats (LTRs) of retroviral elements belonging to the HERV-E family contribute to the expression of the human apolipoprotein C1 (APOC1) and endothelin B receptor (EDNRB) genes by providing alternative promoters. While both LTRs were shown to promote transcription in vivo and in vitro, their respective activity and tissue specificity appeared to differ even though they shared a high degree of sequence identity. In the present study, we further characterized the promoter of the EDNRB LTR and delineated the regions and motifs required for strong activity. We confirmed the placenta-restricted expression of the LTR by transient transfections and quantitative real-time PCR and determined that the retroviral promoter contributes significantly to the level of EDNRB transcripts in placenta, where chimeric mRNAs were found to represent 15% of overall EDNRB mRNAs. Transient transfection of 5′ deletion constructs in cells of placental origin identified a motif, named LPE1, between positions 111 and 122 of the EDNRB LTR necessary for transcriptional activity. Removal of this region, which contains a putative SP1 binding site, abolished promoter activity. A second enhancing region resides between positions 175 and 215 of the LTR and was termed LPE2. Interestingly, this section contained three binding sites that were not present in the APOC1 LTR due to minor nucleotide differences. The predicted motifs in the EDNRB LTR were found to likely act in symbiosis as modifications to any of the three sites reduced transcription by one-third while alterations to all three eliminated promoter activity. The results from this study illustrate how slight variations in transcriptional regulatory sequences can have a profound effect on promoter activity and demonstrate the complex regulatory effects of human endogenous retrovirus elements on human gene expression.
PMCID: PMC164795  PMID: 12805445
11.  Retroviral vectors displaying functional antibody fragments. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1993;21(5):1081-1085.
We have made retrovirus particles displaying a functional antibody fragment. We fused the gene encoding an antibody fragment directed against a hapten with that encoding the viral envelope protein (Pr80env) of the ecotropic Moloney murine leukemia virus. The fusion gene was co-expressed in ecotropic retroviral packaging cells with a retroviral plasmid carrying the neomycin phosphotransferase gene (neo), and retroviral particles with specific hapten binding activities were recovered. Furthermore the hapten-binding particles were able to transfer the neo gene and the antibody-envelope fusion gene to mouse fibroblasts. In principle, the display of antibody fragments on the surface of recombinant retroviral particles could be used to target virus to cells for gene delivery, or to retain the virus in target tissues.
PMCID: PMC309266  PMID: 8385311
12.  Dynamic Evolution of Endogenous Retrovirus-Derived Genes Expressed in Bovine Conceptuses during the Period of Placentation 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2013;5(2):296-306.
In evolution of mammals, some of essential genes for placental development are known to be of retroviral origin, as syncytin-1 derived from an envelope (env) gene of an endogenous retrovirus (ERV) aids in the cell fusion of placenta in humans. Although the placenta serves the same function in all placental mammals, env-derived genes responsible for trophoblast cell fusion and maternal immune tolerance differ among species and remain largely unidentified in the bovine species. To examine env-derived genes playing a role in the bovine placental development comprehensively, we determined the transcriptomic profiles of bovine conceptuses during three crucial windows of implantation periods using a high-throughput sequencer. The sequence reads were mapped into the bovine genome, in which ERV candidates were annotated using RetroTector© (7,624 and 1,542 for ERV-derived and env-derived genes, respectively). The mapped reads showed that approximately 18% (284 genes) of env-derived genes in the genome were expressed during placenta formation, and approximately 4% (63 genes) were detected for all days examined. We verified three env-derived genes that are expressed in trophoblast cells by polymerase chain reaction. Out of these three, the sequence of env-derived gene with the longest open reading frame (named BERV-P env) was found to show high expression levels in trophoblast cell lines and to be similar to those of syncytin-Car1 genes found in dogs and cats, despite their disparate origins. These results suggest that placentation depends on various retrovirus-derived genes that could have replaced endogenous predecessors during evolution.
PMCID: PMC3590765  PMID: 23335121
endogenous retrovirus; RNA-seq; syncytin; envelope; cow
13.  Expression and function of the LIM-homeobox containing genes Lhx3 and Lhx4 in the mouse placenta 
The LIM homeobox containing genes of the LIM-3 group, Lhx3 and Lhx4, are critical for normal development. Both genes are involved in the formation of the pituitary and the motoneuron system and loss of either gene causes perinatal lethality. Previous studies had shown that Lhx3 is overexpressed in hyperplastic placentas of mouse interspecies hybrids. To determine the role of LHX3 in the mouse placenta, we performed expression and function analyses. Our results show that Lhx3 exhibits specific spatial and temporal expression in the mouse placenta, however, deletion of Lhx3 does not produce a placental phenotype. To test whether this is due to functional substitution by Lhx4, we performed a phenotype analysis of Lhx3−/−;Lhx4−/−double-mutant placentas. A subset of Lhx3−/−;Lhx4−/− placentas exhibited abnormal structure of the labyrinth, however, absence of both LIM-3 genes did not interfere with placental transport nor consistently with expression of target genes such as Gnrhr. Thus, LHX3 and LHX4 appear to be dispensable for placental development and function.
PMCID: PMC3632286  PMID: 18425848
LIM-homeobox gene; Lhx3; Lhx4; mouse placenta
14.  Pseudotype formation of murine leukemia virus with the G protein of vesicular stomatitis virus. 
Journal of Virology  1991;65(3):1202-1207.
Mixed infection of a cell by vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) and retroviruses results in the production of progeny virions bearing the genome of one virus encapsidated by the envelope proteins of the other. The mechanism for the phenomenon of pseudotype formation is not clear, although specific recognition of a viral envelope protein by the nucleocapsid of an unrelated virus is presumably involved. In this study, we used Moloney murine leukemia virus (MoMLV)-based retroviral vectors encoding the gene for neomycin phosphotransferase to investigate the interaction between the VSV G protein and the retroviral nucleocapsid during the formation of MoMLV(VSV) pseudotypes. Our results show that VSV G protein can be incorporated into the virions of retrovirus in the absence of other VSV-encoded proteins or of retroviral envelope protein. Infection of hamster cells by MoMLV(VSV) pseudotypes gave rise to neomycin phosphotransferase-resistant colonies, and addition of anti-VSV serum to the virus preparations completely abolished the infectivity of MoMLV(VSV) pseudotypes. It should be possible to use existing mutants of VSV G protein in the system described here to identify the signals that are important for the formation of MoMLV(VSV) pseudotypes.
PMCID: PMC239887  PMID: 1847450
15.  A point mutation in the env gene of a murine leukemia virus induces syncytium formation and neurologic disease. 
Journal of Virology  1994;68(11):7516-7524.
TR1.3 is a Friend-related murine leukemia virus that has been shown to cause intracerebral hemorrhages and neurologic disease due to infection and subsequent cytopathology of cerebral vessel endothelium. A striking feature of this pathology is the formation of endothelial cell syncytia. The pathogenesis of this disease has now been mapped to a single amino acid substitution of tryptophan to glycine in the variable region of the envelope protein. This same mutation enabled TR1.3 to form syncytia and retard cell proliferation in vitro in the SC-1 mouse embryoblast line but did not affect the pH dependence of viral entry. These results demonstrate that subtle molecular changes in retroviral env genes can induce both syncytium formation and overt clinical disease.
PMCID: PMC237194  PMID: 7933135
16.  Mechanisms for Env Glycoprotein Acquisition by Retroviruses 
A mandatory step in the formation of an infectious retroviral particle is the acquisition of its envelope glycoprotein (Env). This step invariably occurs by Env positioning itself in the host membrane at the location of viral budding and being incorporated along with the host membrane into the viral particle. In some ways, this step of the viral life cycle would appear to be imprecise. There is no specific sequence in Env or in the retroviral structural protein, Gag, that is inherently required for the production of an infectious Env-containing particle. Additionally, Env-defective proviruses can efficiently produce infectious particles with any of a number of foreign retroviral Env glycoproteins or even glycoproteins from unrelated viral families, a process termed pseudotyping. However, mounting evidence suggests that Env incorporation is neither passive nor random. Rather, several redundant mechanisms appear to contribute to the carefully controlled process of Env acquisition, many of which are apparently used by a wide variety of enveloped viruses. This review presents and discusses the evidence for these different mechanisms contributing to incorporation.
PMCID: PMC3048835  PMID: 21247353
17.  A population of murine hematopoietic progenitors expresses an endogenous retroviral gp70 linked to the Rmcf gene and associated with resistance to erythroleukemia 
Multiple copies of retroviral sequences are stably integrated in the genomes of many higher organisms, and are thus transmitted vertically to offspring via the germline (1). Most of these heritable viral genes are not expressed, and expression, when observed, is commonly limited to envelope (env) genes as demonstrated by the presence of cell surface and serum envelope glycoprotein (gp70) in mice. Studies of the mouse have shown that certain tissues such as the reproductive tract and lymphoid organs are common sites for the expression of endogenous env genes, suggesting that the transcription of at least some endogenous sequences is tissue specific. The transcription of endogenous viral genes is regulated by both cis and trans mechanisms (2-5) and their expression can be temporally linked to differentiation and development (6-8). The consequences to the host of endogenous retroviral genes are varied. At one extreme, expression of endogenous virus can result in the development of leukemia and death. Another potentially detrimental effect is that of insertional mutagenesis, seen when the integration of retroviral sequences interrupts the functioning of a cellular gene (9, 10). However, it is now clear that expression of endogenous retroviral genes may also have a beneficial effect for the host: namely, mediating resistance to retroviral leukemias as has been demonstrated for the Fv-4 gene in mice (11) and some ea loci in chickens (12). This form of resistance is due to the blockage of cellular viral receptors by the expression of envelope glycoprotein on the cell surface. The Rmcf locus of the mouse is another resistance gene that may exert its effect by the expression of an endogenous env gene. A summary of our current state of knowledge concerning the Rmcf gene is shown in Table I. The Rmcf gene was originally described when it was observed that fibroblast cell cultures derived from certain strains of mice restricted the replication of recombinant mink cell focus-forming(MCF)1 viruses (13). As detailed in Table I, DBA/2 mice are the prototypic strain exhibiting the Rmcf resistance (Rmcf(r)) phenotype. Cell cultures from other strains, such as C57BL/6 and IRW, are permissive for MCF viral replication and are termed Rmcf sensitive (Rmcf(s)). Previously, we described two allelic forms of an endogenous env gene, whose expression is linked to the Rmcf gene (14). Cell cultures from Rmcf(r) mice express gp70 related to that of MCF viruses, whereas cultures derived from Rmcf(s) mice either express no gp70 (IRW) or express an endogenous xenotropic gp70 (C57BL/6). These two gp70 alleles are detectable by type-specific mAbs.
PMCID: PMC2189291  PMID: 2926325
18.  Direct injection of a recombinant retroviral vector induces human immunodeficiency virus-specific immune responses in mice and nonhuman primates. 
Journal of Virology  1994;68(8):5036-5044.
The cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) response plays an important role in controlling the severity and duration of viral infections. Immunization by direct in vivo administration of retroviral vector particles represents an efficient means of introducing and expressing genes and, subsequently, the proteins they encode in vivo in mammalian cells. In this manner foreign proteins can be provided to the endogenous, class I major histocompatibility complex antigen presentation pathway leading to CTL activation. A nonreplicating recombinant retroviral vector, encoding the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) IIIB envelope and rev proteins, has been developed and examined for stimulation of immune responses in mouse, rhesus macaque, and baboon models. Animals were immunized by direct intramuscular injection of the retroviral vector particles. Vector-immunized mice, macaques, and baboons generated long-lived CD8+, major histocompatibility complex-restricted CTL responses that were HIV-1 protein specific. The CTL responses were found to be dependent on the ability of the retroviral vector to transduce cells. The vector also elicited HIV-1 envelope-specific antibody responses in mice and baboons. These studies demonstrate the ability of a retroviral vector encoding HIV-1 proteins to stimulate cellular and humoral immune responses and suggest that retrovector immunization may provide an effective means of inducing or augmenting CTL responses in HIV-1-infected individuals.
PMCID: PMC236446  PMID: 8035504
19.  Role of Murine Leukemia Virus Reverse Transcriptase Deoxyribonucleoside Triphosphate-Binding Site in Retroviral Replication and In Vivo Fidelity 
Journal of Virology  2000;74(22):10349-10358.
Retroviral populations exhibit a high evolutionary potential, giving rise to extensive genetic variation. Error-prone DNA synthesis catalyzed by reverse transcriptase (RT) generates variation in retroviral populations. Structural features within RTs are likely to contribute to the high rate of errors that occur during reverse transcription. We sought to determine whether amino acids within murine leukemia virus (MLV) RT that contact the deoxyribonucleoside triphosphate (dNTP) substrate are important for in vivo fidelity of reverse transcription. We utilized the previously described ANGIE P encapsidating cell line, which expresses the amphotropic MLV envelope and a retroviral vector (pGA-1). pGA-1 expresses the bacterial β-galactosidase gene (lacZ), which serves as a reporter of mutations. Extensive mutagenesis was performed on residues likely to interact with the dNTP substrate, and the effects of these mutations on the fidelity of reverse transcription were determined. As expected, most substitution mutations of amino acids that directly interact with the dNTP substrate significantly reduced viral titers (>10,000-fold), indicating that these residues played a critical role in catalysis and viral replication. However, the D153A and A154S substitutions, which are predicted to affect the interactions with the triphosphate, resulted in statistically significant increases in the mutation rate. In addition, the conservative substitution F155W, which may affect interactions with the base and the ribose, increased the mutation rate 2.8-fold. Substitutions of residues in the vicinity of the dNTP-binding site also resulted in statistically significant decreases in fidelity (1.3- to 2.4-fold). These results suggest that mutations of residues that contact the substrate dNTP can affect viral replication as well as alter the fidelity of reverse transcription.
PMCID: PMC110909  PMID: 11044079
20.  Elephant Transcriptome Provides Insights into the Evolution of Eutherian Placentation 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2012;4(5):713-725.
The chorioallantoic placenta connects mother and fetus in eutherian pregnancies. In order to understand the evolution of the placenta and provide further understanding of placenta biology, we sequenced the transcriptome of a term placenta of an African elephant (Loxodonta africana) and compared these data with RNA sequence and microarray data from other eutherian placentas including human, mouse, and cow. We characterized the composition of 55,910 expressed sequence tag (i.e., cDNA) contigs using our custom annotation pipeline. A Markov algorithm was used to cluster orthologs of human, mouse, cow, and elephant placenta transcripts. We found 2,963 genes are commonly expressed in the placentas of these eutherian mammals. Gene ontology categories previously suggested to be important for placenta function (e.g., estrogen receptor signaling pathway, cell motion and migration, and adherens junctions) were significantly enriched in these eutherian placenta–expressed genes. Genes duplicated in different lineages and also specifically expressed in the placenta contribute to the great diversity observed in mammalian placenta anatomy. We identified 1,365 human lineage–specific, 1,235 mouse lineage–specific, 436 cow lineage–specific, and 904 elephant-specific placenta-expressed (PE) genes. The most enriched clusters of human-specific PE genes are signal/glycoprotein and immunoglobulin, and humans possess a deeply invasive human hemochorial placenta that comes into direct contact with maternal immune cells. Inference of phylogenetically conserved and derived transcripts demonstrates the power of comparative transcriptomics to trace placenta evolution and variation across mammals and identified candidate genes that may be important in the normal function of the human placenta, and their dysfunction may be related to human pregnancy complications.
PMCID: PMC3381679  PMID: 22546564
comparative transcriptomics; Loxodonta africana; RNA-seq; placenta development
21.  Screen for abnormal mitochondrial phenotypes in mouse embryonic stem cells identifies a model for succinyl-CoA ligase deficiency and mtDNA depletion 
Disease Models & Mechanisms  2013;7(2):271-280.
Mutations in subunits of succinyl-CoA synthetase/ligase (SCS), a component of the citric acid cycle, are associated with mitochondrial encephalomyopathy, elevation of methylmalonic acid (MMA), and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) depletion. A FACS-based retroviral-mediated gene trap mutagenesis screen in mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells for abnormal mitochondrial phenotypes identified a gene trap allele of Sucla2 (Sucla2SAβgeo), which was used to generate transgenic mice. Sucla2 encodes the ADP-specific β-subunit isoform of SCS. Sucla2SAβgeo homozygotes exhibited recessive lethality, with most mutants dying late in gestation (e18.5). Mutant placenta and embryonic (e17.5) brain, heart and muscle showed varying degrees of mtDNA depletion (20–60%). However, there was no mtDNA depletion in mutant liver, where the gene is not normally expressed. Elevated levels of MMA were observed in embryonic brain. SCS-deficient mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) demonstrated a 50% reduction in mtDNA content compared with wild-type MEFs. The mtDNA depletion resulted in reduced steady state levels of mtDNA encoded proteins and multiple respiratory chain deficiencies. mtDNA content could be restored by reintroduction of Sucla2. This mouse model of SCS deficiency and mtDNA depletion promises to provide insights into the pathogenesis of mitochondrial diseases with mtDNA depletion and into the biology of mtDNA maintenance. In addition, this report demonstrates the power of a genetic screen that combines gene trap mutagenesis and FACS analysis in mouse ES cells to identify mitochondrial phenotypes and to develop animal models of mitochondrial dysfunction.
PMCID: PMC3917248  PMID: 24271779
TCA cycle; Mitochondrial DNA depletion; Gene trap; Mitochondria
22.  cDNA sequence and genomic characterization of intracisternal A-particle-related retroviral elements containing an envelope gene. 
Journal of Virology  1991;65(11):5702-5709.
Intracisternal A-particle retrotransposons (IAPs) are retroviruslike elements that are defective in envelope protein synthesis and exist without an extracellular stage. We have isolated a novel class of cDNAs that are related to known IAP elements in the nucleotide and deduced protein sequence of gag and pol genes but also contain a previously unidentified reading frame between the pol gene and putative U3 region. Analysis of the deduced protein sequence reveals features of the putative protein that are characteristic of retroviral envelope proteins. The isolated cDNAs represent transcripts of multiple retroid elements in the mouse genome that were termed IAPE (intracisternal A-particle-related elements coding for envelope). IAPE env genes exist in approximately 200 copies per haploid genome as integral parts of the majority of these retroid elements. Four major IAPE subgroups could be distinguished after EcoRI digestion of genomic DNA.
PMCID: PMC250230  PMID: 1920613
23.  Ets2 is required for trophoblast stem cell self renewal 
Developmental biology  2007;312(1):284-299.
The Ets2 transcription factor is essential for the development of the mouse placenta and for generating signals for embryonic mesoderm and axis formation. Using a conditional targeted Ets2 allele, we show that Ets2 is essential for trophoblast stem (TS) cells self renewal. Inactivation of Ets2 results in TS cell slower growth, increased expression of a subset of differentiation associated genes and decreased expression of several genes implicated in TS self renewal. Among the direct TS targets of Ets2 is Cdx2, a key master regulator of TS cell state. Thus Ets2 contributes to the regulation of multiple genes important for maintaining the undifferentiated state of TS cells and as candidate signals for embryonic development.
PMCID: PMC2211385  PMID: 17977525
24.  Monoclonal Antibody 667 Recognizes the Variable Region A Motif of the Ecotropic Retrovirus CasBrE Envelope Glycoprotein and Inhibits Env Binding to the Viral Receptor 
Journal of Virology  2003;77(20):10984-10993.
Monoclonal antibody (MAb) 667 is a neutralizing mouse monoclonal antibody recognizing the envelope glycoprotein (Env) of the ecotropic neurotropic murine retrovirus CasBrE but not that of other murine retroviruses. Since 667 can be used for preclinical studies of antiviral gene therapy as well as for studying the early events of retroviral infection, we have cloned its cDNAs and molecularly characterized it in detail. Spot technique-based experiments showed that 667 recognizes a linear epitope of 12 amino acids located in the variable region A of the receptor binding domain. Alanine scanning experiments showed that six amino acids within the epitope are critical for MAb binding. One of them, D57, is not present in any other murine retroviral Env, which suggests a critical role for this residue in the selectivity of 667. MAb 667 heavy- and light-chain cDNAs were functionally characterized by transient transfection into Cos-7 cells. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays and Biacore studies showed that the specificities as well as the antigen-binding thermodynamic and kinetic properties of the recombinant 667 MAb (r667) produced by Cos-7 cells and those of the parental hybridoma-produced MAb (h667) were similar. However, h667 was shown to contain contaminating retroviral and/or retrovirus-like particles which interfere with both viral binding and neutralization experiments. These contaminants could successfully be removed by a stringent purification protocol. Importantly, this purified 667 could completely prevent retrovirus binding to target cells and was as efficient as the r667 MAb produced by transfected Cos-7 cells in neutralization assays. In conclusion, this study shows that the primary mechanism of virus neutralization by MAb 667 is the blocking of the retroviral receptor binding domain of CasBrE Env. In addition, the findings of this study constitute a warning against the direct use of hybridoma cell culture supernatants for studying the initial events of retroviral cell infection as well as for carrying out in vivo neutralization experiments and suggest that either recombinant antibodies or highly purified antibodies are preferable for these purposes.
PMCID: PMC224958  PMID: 14512547
25.  Importance of Primary Capture and L-Selectin–Dependent Secondary Capture in Leukocyte Accumulation in Inflammation and Atherosclerosis in Vivo 
In the multistep process of leukocyte extravasation, the mechanisms by which leukocytes establish the initial contact with the endothelium are unclear. In parallel, there is a controversy regarding the role for L-selectin in leukocyte recruitment. Here, using intravital microscopy in the mouse, we investigated leukocyte capture from the free flow directly to the endothelium (primary capture), and capture mediated through interactions with rolling leukocytes (secondary capture) in venules, in cytokine-stimulated arterial vessels, and on atherosclerotic lesions in the aorta. Capture was more prominent in arterial vessels compared with venules. In venules, the incidence of capture increased with increasing vessel diameter and wall shear rate. Secondary capture required a minimum rolling leukocyte flux and contributed by ∼20–50% of total capture in all studied vessel types. In arteries, secondary capture induced formation of clusters and strings of rolling leukocytes. Function inhibition of L-selectin blocked secondary capture and thereby decreased the flux of rolling leukocytes in arterial vessels and in large (>45 μm in diameter), but not small (<45 μm), venules. These findings demonstrate the importance of leukocyte capture from the free flow in vivo. The different impact of blockage of secondary capture in venules of distinct diameter range, rolling flux, and wall shear rate provides explanations for the controversy regarding the role of L-selectin in various situations of leukocyte recruitment. What is more, secondary capture occurs on atherosclerotic lesions, a fact that provides the first evidence for roles of L-selectin in leukocyte accumulation in atherogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2193449  PMID: 11457895
venule; artery; cell adhesion molecules; rolling string; mice

Results 1-25 (379797)