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Gene. 2001 Jul 25;273(1):51-61.

Full-sized HERV-K (HML-2) human endogenous retroviral LTR sequences on human chromosome 21: map locations and evolutionary history.

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Shemyakin-Ovchinnikov Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, Russian Academy of Science, 16/10 Miklukho-Maklaya, Moscow, 117871, Russia.


One of the evolutionary mechanisms for acquisition of novel functional sequences can be domestication of exogenous retroviruses that have been integrated into the germ line. The whole genome mapping of such elements in various species could reveal differences in positions of the retroviral integration and suggest possible roles of these differences in speciation. Here, we describe the number, locations and sequence features of the human endogenous retrovirus HERV-K (HML-2) long terminal repeat (LTR) sequences on human chromosome 21. We show that their distribution along the chromosome is not only non-random but also roughly correlated with the gene density. Amplification of orthologous LTR sites from a number of primate genomes produced patterns of presence and absence for each LTR sequence and allowed determination of the phylogenetic ages and evolutionary order of appearance of individual LTRs. The identity level and phylogenetic age of the LTRs did not correlate with their map locations. Thus, despite the non-random distribution of LTRs, they have apparently been inserted randomly into the chromosome relative to each other. As evidenced in previous studies of chromosomes 19 and 22, this is a characteristic of HERV-K integration.

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