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AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2006 Oct;22(10):979-84.

Detection of HERV-K(HML-2) viral RNA in plasma of HIV type 1-infected individuals.

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AIDS Research Program, Ponce School of Medicine, Ponce, Puerto Rico 00716.


Approximately 8% of the human genome sequence is composed by human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs), most of which are defective. HERV-K(HML-2) is the youngest and most active family and has maintained some proviruses with intact open reading frames (ORFs) that code for viral proteins that may assemble into viral particles. Many HERV-K(HML-2) sequences are polymorphic in humans (present in some individuals but not in others) and probably many others may be unfixed (not inserted permanently in a specific chromosomal location of the human genome). In the present study HIV-1 and HCV-1-positive plasma samples were screened for the presence of HERV-K(HML-2) RNA in an RT-PCR using HERV-K pol specific primers. HERV-K(HML-2) viral RNA sequences were found almost universally in HIV-1(+) plasma samples (95.33%) but were rarely detected in HCV-1 patients (5.2%) or control subjects (7.69%). Other HERV-K(HML-2) viral segments of the RNA genome including gag, prt, and both env regions, surface (su), and transmembrane (tm) were amplified from HERV-K pol-positive plasma of HIV-1 patients. Type 1 and type 2 HERV-K(HML- 2) viral RNA genomes were found to coexist in the same plasma of HIV-1 patients. These results suggest the HERV-K(HML-2) viral particles are induced in HIV-1-infected individuals.

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