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Viruses. 2013 Sep 25;5(10):2349-74. doi: 10.3390/v5102349.

Evolution of foamy viruses: the most ancient of all retroviruses.

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  • 1Universität Würzburg, Institut für Virologie und Immunbiologie, Versbacher Str.7, Würzburg 97078, Germany.


Recent evidence indicates that foamy viruses (FVs) are the oldest retroviruses (RVs) that we know and coevolved with their hosts for several hundred million years. This coevolution may have contributed to the non-pathogenicity of FVs, an important factor in development of foamy viral vectors in gene therapy. However, various questions on the molecular evolution of FVs remain still unanswered. The analysis of the spectrum of animal species infected by exogenous FVs or harboring endogenous FV elements in their genome is pivotal. Furthermore, animal studies might reveal important issues, such as the identification of the FV in vivo target cells, which than require a detailed characterization, to resolve the molecular basis of the accuracy with which FVs copy their genome. The issues of the extent of FV viremia and of the nature of the virion genome (RNA vs. DNA) also need to be experimentally addressed.

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