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BMC Neurol. 2013 Aug 28;13:111. doi: 10.1186/1471-2377-13-111.

Endogenous retroviruses and multiple sclerosis-new pieces to the puzzle.

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  • 1Department of Biomedicine, Aarhus University, Wilhelm Meyers Allé 4, DK-8000, Aarhus, C, Denmark. nexo@hum-gen.au.dk.

Abstract

The possibility that retroviruses play a role in multiple sclerosis (MS) has long been considered; accumulating findings suggest this to be most likely in the form of human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs). A genetic test series of fifty endogenous retroviral loci for association with MS in Danes showed SNP markers near a specific endogenous retroviral locus, HERV-Fc1 located on the X-chromosome, to be positive. Bout Onset MS was associated with the HERV-Fc1 locus, while a rarer form, Primary Progressive MS, was not. Moreover, HERV-Fc1 Gag RNA in plasma was increased 4-fold in patients with recent history of attacks, relative to patients in a stable state and to healthy controls.Finally, genetic variations in restriction genes for retroviruses influence the risk of MS, providing further support for a role of retroviral elements in disease.We speculate that endogenous retroviruses may activate the innate immune system in a variety of ways, involving the host proteins, TRIMs, TLRs, TREXs and STING. Observations in HIV-positive patients suggest that antiretroviral drugs can curb MS. Thus, these new findings regarding the etiology and pathogenesis of MS, suggest alternative ways to challenge autoimmune diseases.

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