Evolutionary implications of primate endogenous retroviruses.
Endogenous DNA sequences related to retroviruses are probably present in all primates. By using approaches based on the polymerase chain reaction, two separate studies have revealed the evolutionary history of some of these sequences. In the first study, a retrovirus-like reverse transcriptase (RT) sequence homologous to that of Baboon endogenous virus (BaEV) has been identified in both Old World monkeys and African apes, but not in humans or Asian apes. This RT sequence is highly conserved at the amino acid level, but not the nucleotide level, in the baboon, African green monkey, Java macaque, chimpanzee, and gorilla. The patterns of nucleotide substitution indicate functional conservation and suggest that this RT sequence was present in the primate germline before apes and Old World monkeys diverged about 30 million years ago. In the second study, a comparison of endogenous proviral DNAs and their adjacent sequences has been used to analyze the evolutionary history of three previously reported human endogenous retroviruses, HERV-E(4.14), HERV-R(3), and HERV-Ia. It is shown that these retroviruses have also been resident in the primate line since before the ape-Old World monkey divergence. The implications of the presence of functionally conserved RT genes in the germlines of primates, and the potential for using integration sites as tools for analyzing phylogenetic relationships among primates and their retroviruses, are discussed.
Shih, A; Coutavas, EE; Rush, MG
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