Identification of putative endogenous retroviruses actively transcribed in the brain

Deug Nam Kwon, Sally Nguyen, Alex Chew, Karen Hsu, David G Greenhalgh, Kiho Cho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Remnant proviral sequences in the genome resulting from the ancient germline infection of exogenous retroviruses are called endogenous retroviruses (ERVs). The transcriptional activation of human ERVs (HERVs) in the brain of patients with some neurologic diseases suggests that ERVs may participate in certain disease processes in the central nervous system. In this study, we identified putative murine ERVs (MuERVs) which are transcriptionally active in the brain and characterized their biological properties to better understand the ERVs' roles in the brain pathophysiology. The brain and selective non-nervous tissues (heart, muscle, adrenal gland, and salivary gland) of female C57BL/6J mice were subjected to RT-PCR analyses of MuERV expression by amplifying the 3′-end U3 regions and full-length/subgenomic transcripts. The expression patterns of the U3 regions and subgenomic transcripts in the brain were unique compared to the other tissues as well as the genomic MuERV profile. Two putative MuERVs (8,027 and 5,668 bp) were mapped on the mouse genome (chromosome 10, and chromosomes 4 and 8, respectively) using the MuERV U3 sequences, which were evidently expressed in the brain, as probes. Biological properties of these putative MuERVs, such as transcription potential, primer binding site, coding potential, integration age, recombination, and flanking host genes, were characterized. In particular, one of the two putative MuERV isolates had coding potentials for intact group specific antigen (gag), and truncated polymerase (pol) and envelope (env) polypeptides, while the other was defective for all three polypeptides. The findings from this study suggest that a specific group of MuERVs are constitutively expressed in the brain and they may participate in normal and pathogenic events pertaining to the brain through their replication gene products (e.g., gag and env polypeptides) as well as interactions with flanking host genes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)439-447
Number of pages9
JournalVirus Genes
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2008


  • Brain
  • C57BL/6J strain
  • Endogenous retroviruses
  • MuERV
  • Transcription

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Immunology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Genetics


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