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Mol Biol Evol. 2002 Apr;19(4):526-33.

Characterization of the intragenomic spread of the human endogenous retrovirus family HERV-W.

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Departamento de BioloxĂ­a Fundamental, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, E-15782 Santiago de Compostela, Spain.


This study examines the intragenomic spread of the human endogenous retrovirus family HERV-W from insertions present within the draft sequence of the human genome. Identification of shared diagnostic differences and phylogenetic analyses revealed the existence of three main subfamilies. The average divergence between sequences for each of the subfamilies suggests that most of the HERV-W elements were inserted within the genome during a short period of evolutionary time. Each one of the subfamilies consists of two types of insertions, the expected proviral sequences and other sequences resembling the structure of processed retrogenes. These HERV-W retrosequences extend from the R region of the 5' long-terminal repeat (LTR) to the R region of the 3' LTR (as viral genomic RNAs), end in poly(A) 3' tails, and are flanked by direct repeats longer than the proviral integrations. Furthermore, several of the HERV-W retrosequences are 5'-truncated at different sites. I suggest the involvement of the L1 machinery in these integrations and discuss the characteristic features of the evolutionary history of HERV-W, with emphasis on the putative impact of HERV-W retrosequence integrations on the mammalian genome.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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