Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) constitute approximately 8−10% of the human and mouse genome. Some autoimmune diseases are attributed to the altered expression of ERVs. In this study, we examined the ERV expression profiles in lymphoid tissues and analyzed their biological properties. Tissues (spleen, thymus, and lymph nodes [axillary, inguinal, and mesenteric]) from C57BL/6J mice were analyzed for differential murine ERV (MuERV) expression by RT-PCR examination of polymorphic U3 sequences. Each tissue had a unique profile of MuERV expression. A genomic map identifying 60 putative MuERVs was established using 22 unique U3s as probes and their biological properties (primer binding site, coding potential, transcription regulatory element, tropism, recombination event, and integration age) were characterized. Interestingly, 12 putative MuERVs retained intact coding potentials for all three polypeptides essential for virus assembly and replication. We suggest that MuERV expression is differentially regulated in conjunction with the transcriptional environment of individual lymphoid tissues.
endogenous retrovirus; spleen; thymus; lymph node; coding potential; transcription; genome
Previous studies have shown that burn-elicited stress signals alter expression of certain murine endogenous retroviruses (MuERVs) in distant organs of mice. These findings suggest that MuERVs may participate in a network of pathophysiologic events during post-burn systemic response. To gain a better understanding of the biological roles of MuERVs in post-burn systemic response, we examined the genome-wide changes in the MuERV expression profiles in distant organs and the biological properties of the putative-burn related MuERVs were characterized.
Female C57BL/6J mice were subjected to an approximately 18 % total body surface area flame burn and tissues (liver, lung, and kidney) were harvested at 3 hours and 24 hours after injury. The changes in the MuERV expression profiles in these tissues were examined by RT-PCR using a primer set flanking the non-ecotropic MuERV U3 promoter region within the 3' long terminal repeat. There were differential changes in the expression profiles of MuERV U3 regions after injury in all three tissues examined. Subsequently, a total of 31 unique U3 promoter sequences were identified from the tissues of both burn and no burn mice. An analysis of viral tropisms revealed that putative MuERVs harboring these U3 promoter sequences were presumed to be either xenotropic or polytropic. Some putative transcription regulatory elements were present predominantly in U3 promoter sequences isolated from burn and no burn mice, respectively. In addition, in silico mapping using these U3 sequences as a probe against the mouse genome database identified 59 putative MuERVs. The biological properties (coding potentials for retroviral polypeptides, primer binding sites, tropisms, branching ages, recombination events, and neighboring host genes) of each putative MuERV were characterized. In particular, 16 putative MuERVs identified in this study retained intact coding potentials for all three retroviral polypeptides (gag, pol, and env). None of the putative MuERVs identified in this study were mapped to the coding sequences of host genes.
In this study, we identified and characterized putative MuERVs whose expression might be altered in response to burn-elicited systemic stress signals. Further investigation is needed to understand the role of these MuERVs in post-burn systemic pathogenesis, in particular, via characterization of their interaction with host genes, MuERV gene products, and viral activities.
Rex1/Zfp42 is a Yy1-related zinc-finger protein whose expression is frequently used to identify pluripotent stem cells. We show that depletion of Rex1 levels notably affected self-renewal of mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells in clonal assays, in the absence of evident differences in expression of marker genes for pluripotency or differentiation. By contrast, marked differences in expression of several endogenous retroviral elements (ERVs) were evident upon Rex1 depletion. We demonstrate association of REX1 to specific elements in chromatin-immunoprecipitation assays, most strongly to muERV-L and to a lower extent to IAP and musD elements. Rex1 regulates muERV-L expression in vivo, as we show altered levels upon transient gain-and-loss of Rex1 function in pre-implantation embryos. We also find REX1 can associate with the lysine-demethylase LSD1/KDM1A, suggesting they act in concert. Similar to REX1 binding to retrotransposable elements (REs) in ES cells, we also detected binding of the REX1 related proteins YY1 and YY2 to REs, although the binding preferences of the two proteins were slightly different. Altogether, we show that Rex1 regulates ERV expression in mouse ES cells and during pre-implantation development and suggest that Rex1 and its relatives have evolved as regulators of endogenous retroviral transcription.
Endogenous retrovirus (ERV) envelope (env) genes are involved in the differentiation of trophoblastic cells in humans and mice. However, there is limited information about their roles in ruminant trophoblastic cells. Thus, we attempted to explore the possible roles of ERV elements in the binucleation of bovine trophoblastic cells using in vitro bovine trophoblastic (BT) cell lines.
In this study, blastocysts and elongated embryos were obtained from Japanese Black cows, and endometrial and fetal membrane tissues were collected from day 17 to 37 of gestation. The gene expression levels of four ERV elements, bERVE (bovine endogenous retrovirus envelope element-like transcript) -A, bERVE–B, BERV (bovine endogenous retrovirus) -K1 env, and BERV-K2 env, were analyzed in the fetal and endometrial tissue and cultured BT cell lines using quantitative RT-PCR. On-Matrigel gel and on-collagen gel culturing were used to induce binucleate cell (BNC) formation in the BT cell lines. How the culture conditions affected the expression of BNC-specific genes and ERV elements was examined by quantitative RT-PCR and immunocytochemistry.
bERVE-A, bERVE–B, BERV-K1 env, and BERV-K2 env were expressed in almost all BT cell lines; however, only bERVE-A and BERV-K1 env were detected in trophoblastic tissues during the peri-implantation period. In the on-Matrigel cultures, the expression levels of BNC-specific genes and molecules were enhanced in the BT cells. The expression levels of bERVE-A and BERV-K1 env were also increased in the BT cells during on-Matrigel culturing. The BT cell expression levels of these ERV elements were consistent with those of BNC-specific genes during on-Matrigel culturing (P < 0.01).
These results suggest that bERVE-A and BERV-K1 env are involved in the expression of BNC-specific genes and the progression of bovine trophoblastic cell binucleation, as their expression levels increased during periods of increased BNC-specific molecule expression, which is strongly suggestive of the development of BNC from mononucleate trophoblastic cells. The on-Matrigel culture system is a convenient in vitro tool for studying bovine trophoblastic cell lineages.
Endogenous retrovirus; Trophoblastic cells; Binucleate cells; Matrigel
Several families of endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) have been identified in the mouse genome, in several instances by in silico searches, but for many of them it remains to be determined whether there are elements that can still encode functional retroviral particles. Here, we identify, within the GLN family of highly reiterated ERVs, one, and only one, copy that encodes retroviral particles prone to infection of mouse cells. We show that its envelope protein confers an ecotropic host range and recognizes a receptor different from mCAT1 and mSMIT1, the two previously identified receptors for other ecotropic mouse retroviruses. Electron microscopy disclosed viral particle assembly and budding at the cell membrane, as well as release of mature particles into the extracellular space. These particles are closely related to murine leukemia virus (MLV) particles, with which they have most probably been confused in the past. This study, therefore, identifies a new class of infectious mouse ERVs belonging to the family Gammaretroviridae, with one family member still functional today. This family is in addition to the two MLV and mouse mammary tumor virus families of active mouse ERVs with an extracellular life cycle.
Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs), including murine leukemia virus (MuLV) type-ERVs (MuLV-ERVs), are presumed to occupy ~10% of the mouse genome. In this study, following the identification of a full-length MuLV-ERV by in silico survey of the C57BL/6J mouse genome, its distribution in different mouse strains and expression characteristics were investigated.
Application of a set of ERV mining protocols identified a MuLV-ERV locus with full coding potential on chromosome 8 (named ERVmch8). It appears that ERVmch8 shares the same genomic locus with a replication-incompetent MuLV-ERV, called Emv2; however, it was not confirmed due to a lack of relevant annotation and Emv2 sequence information. The ERVmch8 sequence was more prevalent in laboratory strains compared to wild-derived strains. Among 16 different tissues of ~12 week-old female C57BL/6J mice, brain homogenate was the only tissue with evident expression of ERVmch8. Further ERVmch8 expression analysis in six different brain compartments and four peripheral neuronal tissues of C57BL/6J mice revealed no significant expression except for the cerebellum in which the ERVmch8 locus' low methylation status was unique compared to the other brain compartments. The ERVmch8 locus was found to be surrounded by genes associated with neuronal development and/or inflammation. Interestingly, cerebellum-specific ERVmch8 expression was age-dependent with almost no expression at 2 weeks and a plateau at 6 weeks.
The ecotropic ERVmch8 locus on the C57BL/6J mouse genome was relatively undermethylated in the cerebellum, and its expression was cerebellum-specific and age-dependent.
The ERV3 locus at chromosome 7q11 is a much studied human endogenous retroviral (HERV) sequence, owing to an env open reading frame (ORF) and placental RNA and protein expression. An analysis of the human genome demonstrated that ERV3 is one of a group of 41 highly related elements (ERV3-like HERVs) which use proline, isoleucine, or arginine tRNA in their primer binding sites. In addition to elements closely related to ERV3, the group included the previously known retinoic acid-inducible element, RRHERVI, also referred to as HERV15, but was separate from the related HERV-E elements. The ERV3-like elements are defective. The only element with an ORF among gag, pro, pol, and env genes was the env ORF of the original ERV3 locus. A search in dbEST revealed ERV3 RNA expression in placenta, skin, carcinoid tumor, and adrenal glands. Expression was also studied with newly developed real-time quantitative PCRs (QPCR) of ERV3 and HERV-E(4-1) env sequences. Results from a novel histone 3.3 RNA QPCR result served as the expression control. QPCR results for ERV3 were compatible with previously published results, with a stronger expression in adrenal gland and placenta than in 15 other human tissues. The expression of the envelope (env) of ERV3 at chromosome 7q11 was also studied by using stringent in situ hybridization. Expression was found in corpus luteum, testis, adrenal gland, Hassal's bodies in thymus, brown fat, pituitary gland, and epithelium of the lung. We conclude that ERV3 env is most strongly expressed in adrenal and sebaceous glands as well as in placenta.
While early transposon (ETn) endogenous retrovirus (ERV)-like elements are known to be active insertional mutagens in the mouse, little is known about their transcriptional regulation. ETns are transcribed during early mouse embryogenesis in embryonic stem (ES) and embryonic carcinoma (EC) cell lines. Despite their lack of coding potential, some ETns remain transposition competent through their use of reverse transcriptase encoded by a related group of ERVs—MusD elements. In this study, we have confirmed high expression levels of ETn and MusD elements in ES and EC cells and have demonstrated an increase in the copy number of ETnII elements in the EC P19 cell line. Using transient transfections, we have shown that ETnII and MusD LTRs are much more active as promoters in P19 cells than in NIH 3T3 cells, indicating that genomic context and methylation are not the only factors determining endogenous transcriptional activity of ETns. Three sites in the 5′ part of the long terminal repeat (LTR) were demonstrated to bind Sp1 and Sp3 transcription factors and were found to be important for high LTR promoter activity in P19 cells, suggesting that as yet unidentified Sp binding partners are involved in the regulation of ETn activity in undifferentiated cells. Finally, we found multiple transcription start sites within the ETn LTR and have shown that the LTR retains significant promoter activity in the absence of its noncanonical TATA box. These findings lend insight into the transcriptional regulation of this family of mobile mouse retrotransposons.
Murine leukemia virus-type endogenous retroviruses (MuLV-ERVs) constitute ~10% of the mouse genome and are associated with various pathophysiologic processes. In this study, we examined whether MuLV-ERVs’ response to burn-elicited stressors is specific for certain lymphocyte populations and/or locations of lymphoid organ.
B- and T-cells, which were sorted from nine lymphoid organs of C57BL/6J mice after burn, were subjected to MuLV-ERV expression analyses. Overall, the post-burn MuLV-ERV expression pattern was dependent on lymphocyte type, time after injury, location of lymphoid organ, and MuLV-ERV type. For instance, the MuLV-ERV expression in T-cells from the thymus and three cervical lymph nodes decreased at 3 hours post-burn while the expression of some MuLV-ERVs was augmented in B-cells derived from the mesenteric lymph node. The MuLV-ERV U3 sequences population of the burn-24 hours group was less diverse in comparison to the no burn and burn-3 hours groups. In addition, it was apparent that at the 24 hours time point, the U3 populations of B-cells from both no burn and burn groups were less heterogeneous than the T-cells’ U3 populations. Using the U3 sequences, some of which were isolated only from specific experimental groups (B- vs. T-cells; no burn vs. burn), as probes, 51 putative MuLV-ERVs, including 16 full-length proviruses, were mapped followed by characterization of their biologic properties.
MuLV-ERVs’ response to burn-elicited stressors may be differentially controlled depending on lymphocyte type, location of lymphoid organ, MuLV-ERV type, and stress duration.
B-cell; T-cell; Burn; Stress; Murine leukemia virus-type endogenous retrovirus
Human endogenous retrovirus type K (HERV-K) transcripts are upregulated in the plasma of HIV-infected individuals and have been considered as targets for an HIV vaccine. We evaluated cynomolgus macaque endogenous retrovirus (CyERV) mRNA expression by RT-qPCR in PBMCs isolated from a cohort of animals previously utilized in a live attenuated SIV vaccine trial. CyERV env transcript levels decreased following vaccination (control and vaccine groups) and CyERV env and gag mRNA expression was decreased following acute SIV-infection, whereas during chronic SIV infection, CyERV transcript levels were indistinguishable from baseline. Reduced susceptibility to initial SIV infection, as measured by the number of SIV challenges required for infection, was associated with increased CyERV transcript levels in PBMCs. In vitro analysis revealed that SIV infection of purified CD4+ T-cells did not alter CyERV gene expression. This study represents the first evaluation of ERV expression in cynomolgus macaques following SIV infection, in an effort to assess the utility of cynomolgus macaques as an animal model to evaluate ERVs as a target for an HIV/SIV vaccine. This non-human primate model system does not recapitulate what has been observed to date in the plasma of HIV-infected humans suggesting that further investigation at the cellular level is required to elucidate the impact of HIV/SIV infection on endogenous retrovirus expression.
We have sequenced and characterized an endogenous type D retrovirus, which we have named TvERV(D), from the genome of an Australian marsupial, the common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula). Intact TvERV(D) gag, pro, pol, and env open reading frames were detected in the possum genome. TvERV(D) was classified as a type D retrovirus, most closely related to those of Old World monkeys, New World monkeys, and mice, based on phylogenetic analyses and genetic organization. Approximately 30 TvERV(D) proviruses are present in the genomes of possums, as detected by Southern hybridization. However, variability in fragment patterns between possums was observed and suggests recent (or ongoing) retrotranspositional activity.
The inbred mouse is an invaluable model for human biology and disease. Nevertheless, when considering genetic mechanisms of variation and disease, it is important to appreciate the significant differences in the spectra of spontaneous mutations that distinguish these species. While insertions of transposable elements are responsible for only ~0.1% of de novo mutations in humans, the figure is 100-fold higher in the laboratory mouse. This striking difference is largely due to the ongoing activity of mouse endogenous retroviral elements. Here we briefly review mouse endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) and their influence on gene expression, analyze mechanisms of interaction between ERVs and the host cell, and summarize the variety of mutations caused by ERV insertions. The prevalence of mouse ERV activity indicates that the genome of the laboratory mouse is presently behind in the “arms race” against invasion.
We have previously identified in the human genome a family of 200 endogenous retrovirus-like elements, the HERV-L elements, disclosing similarities with the foamy retroviruses and which might be the evolutionary intermediate between classical intracellular retrotransposons and infectious retroviruses. Southern blot analysis of a large series of mammalian genomic DNAs shows that HERV-L-related elements—so-called ERV-L—are present among all placental mammals, suggesting that ERV-L elements were already present at least 70 million years ago. Most species exhibit a low copy number of ERV-L elements (from 10 to 30), while simians (not prosimians) and mice (not rats) have been subjected to bursts resulting in increases in the number of copies up to 200. The burst of copy number in primates can be dated to shortly after the prosimian and simian branchpoint, 45 to 65 million years ago, whereas murine species have been subjected to two much more recent bursts (less than 10 million years ago), occurring after the Mus/Rattus split. We have amplified and sequenced 360-bp ERV-L internal fragments of the highly conserved pol gene from a series of 22 mammalian species. These sequences exhibit high percentages of identity (57 to 99%) with the murine fully coding MuERV-L element. Phylogenetic analyses allowed the establishment of a plausible evolutionary scheme for ERV-L elements, which accounts for the high level of sequence conservation and the widespread dispersion among mammals.
Prion diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathies (BSE) are transmissible neurodegenerative diseases which are presumably caused by an infectious conformational isoform of the cellular prion protein. Previous work has provided evidence that in murine prion disease the endogenous retrovirus (ERV) expression is altered in the brain. To determine if prion-induced changes in ERV expression are a general phenomenon we used a non-human primate model for prion disease.
Cynomolgus macaques (Macaca fasicularis) were infected intracerebrally with BSE-positive brain stem material from cattle and allowed to develop prion disease. Brain tissue from the basis pontis and vermis cerebelli of the six animals and the same regions from four healthy controls were subjected to ERV expression profiling using a retrovirus-specific microarray and quantitative real-time PCR. We could show that Class I gammaretroviruses HERV-E4-1, ERV-9, and MacERV-4 increase expression in BSE-infected macaques. In a second approach, we analysed ERV-K-(HML-2) RNA and protein expression in extracts from the same cynomolgus macaques. Here we found a significant downregulation of both, the macaque ERV-K-(HML-2) Gag protein and RNA in the frontal/parietal cortex of BSE-infected macaques.
We provide evidence that dysregulation of ERVs in response to BSE-infection can be detected on both, the RNA and the protein level. To our knowledge, this is the first report on the differential expression of ERV-derived structural proteins in prion disorders. Our findings suggest that endogenous retroviruses may induce or exacerbate the pathological consequences of prion-associated neurodegeneration.
Sperm adhesion molecule 1 (SPAM1) is the major mammalian testicular hyaluronidase and is expressed at high levels in sperm cells. SPAM1 protein is important for penetration of the cumulus cell layer surrounding the ovum, and is also involved in zona pellucida binding and sperm intracellular signalling. A previous study had identified SPAM1 as one of the many human genes that initiate within a transposable element.
Examination of the human, mouse and rat SPAM1 loci revealed that transcripts initiate within the pol gene of an endogenous retrovirus (ERV) element. This is highly unusual, as all previously identified ERV-initiated cellular gene transcripts initiate within the viral long terminal repeat promoter. The SPAM1 locus therefore represents an example of the evolution of a promoter from protein-coding sequence. We have identified novel alternative promoter and splicing variants of human and murine SPAM1. We show that all transcript variants are expressed primarily in the testis and are predicted to encode identical proteins.
The testis-specific promoters of the human and mouse SPAM1 genes are derived from sequence that was originally part of an ERV pol gene. This represents the first known example of an ERV-derived promoter acting in a gender-specific manner.
Some murine-endogenous retroviruses, making up ∼10 % of the mouse genome, are induced during the course of experimental sepsis in which lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a pathogenic component of Gram-negative bacteria, often plays a critical role. In this study, we investigated whether LPS stress induces the production of murine leukemia virus type-endogenous retrovirus (MuLV-ERV) virions in primary lymphoid cells. LPS treatment of cells (single-cell suspensions and sorted B- and T-cells) isolated from seven lymphoid organs of C57BL/6J mice resulted in a differential increase in the production of MuLV-ERV virions in most cells examined. Interestingly, among the 34 unique MuLV-ERV U3 sequences cloned from the viral genomic RNAs, the nuclear respiratory factor 1 (transcription factor) element was present only in the 20 U3 sequences that were derived from the LPS-induced MuLV-ERV U3 bands. Using the U3 sequences as a probe, 55 putative MuLV-ERV loci were mapped onto the C57BL/6J mouse genome and 15 of them retained full coding potential. Furthermore, one full-length recombinant MuLV-ERV originating from a locus on chromosome 13 was determined to be responsive to LPS stress. The findings from this study suggest that LPS stress differentially activates MuLV-ERV virion production in lymphoid organs in a cell type- and MuLV-ERV-specific manner. Further investigation is needed to define the role of MuLV-ERVs in the LPS signalling pathway(s) in general, as well as in the pathogenesis of sepsis.
We analyzed the chicken (Gallus gallus) genome sequence to search for previously uncharacterized endogenous retrovirus (ERV) sequences using ab initio and combined evidence approaches. We discovered 11 novel families of ERVs that occupy more than 21 million base pairs, approximately 2%, of the chicken genome. These novel families include a number of recently active full-length elements possessing identical long terminal repeats (LTRs) as well as intact gag and pol open reading frames. The abundance and diversity of chicken ERVs we discovered underscore the utility of an approach that combines multiple methods for the identification of interspersed repeats in vertebrate genomes.
This article was reviewed by Igor Zhulin and Itai Yanai.
The human genome contains multiple copies of retrovirus genomes known as endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) that have entered the germ-line at some point in evolution. Several of these proviruses have retained (partial) coding capacity, so that a number of viral proteins or even virus particles are expressed under various conditions. Human ERVs (HERVs) belong to the beta-, gamma-, or spuma- retrovirus groups. Endogenous delta- and lenti- viruses are notably absent in humans, although endogenous lentivirus genomes have been found in lower primates. Exogenous retroviruses that currently form a health threat to humans intriguingly belong to those absent groups. The best studied of the two infectious human retroviruses is the lentivirus human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) which has an overwhelming influence on its host by infecting cells of the immune system. One HIV-induced change is the induction of HERV transcription, often leading to induced HERV protein expression. This review will discuss the potential HIV-HERV interactions.
Several studies have suggested that HERV proteins are unlikely to complement defective HIV virions, nor is HIV able to package HERV transcripts, probably due to low levels of sequence similarity. It is unclear whether the expression of HERVs has a negative, neutral, or positive influence on HIV-AIDS disease progression. A positive effect was recently reported by the specific expression of HERVs in chronically HIV-infected patients, which results in the presentation of HERV-derived peptides to CD8+ T-cells. These cytotoxic T-cells were not tolerant to HERV peptides, as would be expected for self-antigens, and consequently lysed the HIV-infected, HERV-presenting cells. This novel mechanism could control HIV replication and result in a low plasma viral load. The possibility of developing a vaccination strategy based on these HERV peptides will be discussed.
Approximately 10% of the mouse genome is constituted by endogenous retroviruses (ERVs), and a number of mouse ERVs remain active. Many copies of endogenous murine leukemia viruses (MuLVs) are detected in the genomes of inbred mouse strains. Some of these MuLVs are transcriptionally active or produce infectious virus particles. Previously, we identified partial env sequences of new xenotropic MuLVs (X-MuLVs) from a senescence-accelerated mouse (SAM) strain. In the present study, we investigated and characterized the complete sequences of the X-MuLVs. The complete genomes and open reading frames (ORFs) of two X-MuLVs, designated xmlv15 and xmlv18 (accession nos. HQ154630 and HQ154631, respectively), were molecularly cloned from the genome of the SAM mice. We confirmed that the xmlv15 and xmlv18 sequences are distinct from all known MuLV genomes and are most similar to DG-75 MuLV. Moreover, we found that common strains of laboratory mice carry our newly identified xmlvs. Additionally, the expression levels of xmlv15-related sequences were much higher in C57BL and ICR mice than in the SAM strains without any stimulators. Our findings suggest that a specific group of endogenous MuLVs is constitutively expressed in the brain and that they may participate in normal functions and/or pathogenic conditions.
Endogenous proviruses of the Moloney murine leukemia retrovirus (Mo-MuLV) are transcriptionally blocked in early embryos and in general remain silent even when the tissues have become permissive to the expression of newly integrated copies. Eventually, activation in presumably very few cells initiates rapid superinfection leading to viremia and leukemia, but the processes leading to provirus activation are unknown. Differences in the onset and development of viremia between several mouse strains carrying an endogenous Mo-MuLV (Mov lines) are attributed to a chromosomal position effect, but neither cell type nor stage of provirus activation is known for any strain. We have now monitored the appearance of viral transcripts and particles in the Mov13 strain, which carries the Mo-MuLV provirus in inverted orientation in the first intron of a collagen gene (Col1a1) with well-characterized transcriptional activity. We report obligatory tissue- and stage-specific virus activation in osteoblasts and odontoblasts. The significance of this activation pattern is indicated by the fact that of the great variety of cells expressing the wild-type collagen gene, only these two cell types can also transcribe the mutant allele including its viral insert. We propose that this transcription of the proviral genome, albeit in the opposite direction, leads to the activation of the viral promoter.
Transposable elements are often the targets of repressive epigenetic modifications such as DNA methylation that, in theory, have the potential to spread toward nearby genes and induce epigenetic silencing. To better understand the role of DNA methylation in the relationship between transposable elements and genes, we assessed the methylation state of mouse endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) located near genes.
We found that ERVs of the ETn/MusD family show decreased DNA methylation when near transcription start sites in tissues where the nearby gene is expressed. ERVs belonging to the IAP family, however, are generally heavily methylated, regardless of the genomic environment and the tissue studied. Furthermore, we found full-length ETn and IAP copies that display differential DNA methylation between their two long terminal repeats (LTRs), suggesting that the environment surrounding gene promoters can prevent methylation of the nearby LTR. Spreading from methylated ERV copies to nearby genes was rarely observed, with the regions between the ERVs and genes apparently acting as a boundary, enriched in H3K4me3 and CTCF, which possibly protects the unmethylated gene promoter. Furthermore, the flanking regions of unmethylated ERV copies harbor H3K4me3, consistent with spreading of euchromatin from the host gene toward ERV insertions.
We have shown that spreading of DNA methylation from ERV copies toward active gene promoters is rare. We provide evidence that genes can be protected from ERV-induced heterochromatin spreading by either blocking the invasion of repressive marks or by spreading euchromatin toward the ERV copy.
DNA methylation; epigenetics; evolution; heterochromatin spreading; mouse endogenous retroviruses; transposable element
Humans are symbiotic organisms; our genome is populated with a substantial number of endogenous retroviruses (ERVs), some remarkably intact, while others are remnants of their former selves. Current research indicates that not all ERVs remain silent passengers within our genomes; re-activation of ERVs is often associated with inflammatory diseases. ERVK is the most recently endogenized and transcriptionally active ERV in humans, and as such may potentially contribute to the pathology of inflammatory disease. Here, we showcase the transcriptional regulation of ERVK. Expression of ERVs is regulated in part by epigenetic mechanisms, but also depends on transcriptional regulatory elements present within retroviral long terminal repeats (LTRs). These LTRs are responsive to both viral and cellular transcription factors; and we are just beginning to appreciate the full complexity of transcription factor interaction with the viral promoter. In this review, an exploration into the inflammatory transcription factor sites within the ERVK LTR will highlight the possible mechanisms by which ERVK is induced in inflammatory diseases.
Endogenous retrovirus (ERV); Long terminal repeat (LTR); Transcription factor; Inflammation; Promoter; Interferon-stimulated response element (ISRE); Nuclear factor κB (NF-κB); Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
Kajima, Masahiro (University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Ind.), and Morris Pollard. Detection of viruslike particles in germ-free mice. J. Bacteriol. 90:1448–1454. 1965.—Viruslike particles similar in structure to the mouse leukemia agent were detected by electron microscopy in thymus tissues of germ-free AK mice which had developed spontaneous leukemia. In addition, unique viruslike particles (type B) were detected in tissues from spontaneous mammary adenocarcinoma of germ-free C3H mice. Leukemia virus-like particles were also observed in the thymuses of the control AK mice and of the C3H control mice as well as of those with mammary tumors. Germ-free mice are not virus-free. The routes of transmission of leukemia as well as of mammary tumor viruses may be “vertical,” through the embryo or placenta.
We report on the identification and characterization of XTERV1, a full-length endogenous retrovirus (ERV) within the genome of the western clawed frog (Xenopus tropicalis). XTERV1 contains all the basic genetic elements common to ERVs, including the classical 5′-long terminal repeat (LTR)-gag-pol-env-3′-LTR architecture, as well as conserved functional motifs inherent to each retroviral protein. Using phylogenetic analysis, we show that XTERV1 is related to the Epsilonretrovirus genus. The X. tropicalis genome harbors a single full-length copy with intact gag and pol open reading frames that localizes to the centromeric region of chromosome 5. About 10 full-length defective copies of XTERV1 are found interspersed in the genome, and 2 of them could be assigned to chromosomes 1 and 3. We find that XTERV1 genes are zygotically transcribed in a regulated spatiotemporal manner during frog development, including metamorphosis. Moreover, XTERV1 transcription is upregulated under certain cellular stress conditions, including cytotoxic and metabolic stresses. Interestingly, XTERV1 Env is found to be homologous to FR47, a protein upregulated following cold exposure in the freeze-tolerant wood frog (Rana sylvatica). In addition, we find that R. sylvatica FR47 mRNA originated from a retroviral element. We discuss the potential role(s) of ERVs in physiological processes in vertebrates.
Endogenous retrovirus (ERV) sequences have been found in all mammals. In vitro and in vivo experiments revealed ERV activation and cross-species infection in several species. Sheep (Ovis aries) are used for various biotechnological purposes; however, they have not yet been comprehensively screened for ERV sequences. Therefore, the aim of the study was to classify the ERV sequences in the ovine genome (OERV) by analyzing the retroviral pro-pol sequences. Three OERV β families and nine OERV γ families were revealed. Novel open reading frames (ORF) in the amplified proviral fragment were found in one OERV β family and two OERV γ families. Hybrid OERV produced by putative recombination events were not detected. Quantitative analysis of the OERV sequences in the ovine genome revealed no relevant variations in the endogenous retroviral loads of different breeds. Expression analysis of different tissues from fetal and pregnant sheep detected mRNA from both gammaretrovirus families, showing ORF fragments. Thus, the release of retroviruses from sheep cells cannot be excluded.