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J Mol Evol. 2001 Sep;53(3):237-43.

Evolutionary dynamics of the human endogenous retrovirus family HERV-K inferred from full-length proviral genomes.

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Departamento de Bioloxía Fundamental, Facultade de Bioloxía, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Campus Sur s/n E-15782 Santiago de Compostela, (A Coruña), Spain.


Several distinct families of endogenous retroviruses exist in the genomes of primates. Most of them are remnants of ancient germ-line infections. The human endogenous retrovirus family HERV-K represents the unique known case of endogenous retrovirus that amplified in the human genome after the divergence of human and chimpanzee lineages. There are two types of HERV-K proviral genomes differing by the presence or absence of 292 bp in the pol-env boundary. Human-specific insertions exist for both types. The analyses shown in the present work reveal that several lineages of type 1 and type 2 HERV-K proviruses remained transpositionally active after the human/chimpanzee split. The data also reflect the important role of mosaic evolution (either by recombination or gene conversion) during the evolutionary history of HERV-K.

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