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PLoS Pathog. 2008 Oct;4(10):e1000181. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1000181. Epub 2008 Oct 17.

Evidence for restriction of ancient primate gammaretroviruses by APOBEC3 but not TRIM5alpha proteins.

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Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center and Laboratory of Retrovirology, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York, United States of America.


Because of evolutionary pressures imposed through episodic colonization by retroviruses, many mammals express factors, such as TRIM5alpha and APOBEC3 proteins, that directly restrict retroviral replication. TRIM5 and APOBEC restriction factors are most often studied in the context of modern primate lentiviruses, but it is likely that ancient retroviruses imposed the selective pressure that is evident in primate TRIM5 and APOBEC3 genes. Moreover, these antiretroviral factors have been shown to act against a variety of retroviruses, including gammaretroviruses. Endogenous retroviruses can provide a 'fossil record' of extinct retroviruses and perhaps evidence of ancient TRIM5 and APOBEC3 antiviral activity. Here, we investigate whether TRIM5 and APOBEC3 proteins restricted the replication of two groups of gammaretroviruses that were endogenized in the past few million years. These endogenous retroviruses appear quite widespread in the genomes of old world primates but failed to colonize the human germline. Our analyses suggest that TRIM5alpha proteins did not pose a major barrier to the cross-species transmission of these two families of gammaretroviruses, and did not contribute to their extinction. However, we uncovered extensive evidence for inactivation of ancient gammaretroviruses through the action of APOBEC3 cytidine deaminases. Interestingly, the identities of the cytidine deaminases responsible for inactivation appear to have varied in both a virus and host species-dependent manner. Overall, sequence analyses and reconstitution of ancient retroviruses from remnants that have been preserved in the genomes of modern organisms offer the opportunity to probe and potentially explain the evolutionary history of host defenses against retroviruses.

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