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J Virol. 2000 Apr;74(7):3321-9.

An envelope glycoprotein of the human endogenous retrovirus HERV-W is expressed in the human placenta and fuses cells expressing the type D mammalian retrovirus receptor.

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  • 1Unité Mixte 103 CNRS-bioMérieux, INSERM U412, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, 69364 Lyon Cedex 07, France.


A new human endogenous retrovirus (HERV) family, termed HERV-W, was recently described (J.-L. Blond, F. Besème, L. Duret, O. Bouton, F. Bedin, H. Perron, B. Mandrand, and F. Mallet, J. Virol. 73:1175-1185, 1999). HERV-W mRNAs were found to be specifically expressed in placenta cells, and an env cDNA containing a complete open reading frame was recovered. In cell-cell fusion assays, we demonstrate here that the product of the HERV-W env gene is a highly fusogenic membrane glycoprotein. Transfection of an HERV-W Env expression vector in a panel of cell lines derived from different species resulted in formation of syncytia in primate and pig cells upon interaction with the type D mammalian retrovirus receptor. Moreover, envelope glycoproteins encoded by HERV-W were specifically detected in placenta cells, suggesting that they may play a physiological role during pregnancy and placenta formation.

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