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Clin Microbiol Rev. 1996 Jan;9(1):72-99.

Human endogenous retroviruses: nature, occurrence, and clinical implications in human disease.

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  • 1Calypte Biomedical Corporation, Berkeley, California 94710, USA.


Retroviral diagnostics have become standard in human laboratory medicine. While current emphasis is placed on the human exogenous viruses (human immunodeficiency virus and human T-cell leukemia virus), evidence implicating human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) in various human disease entities continues to mount. Literature on the occurrence of HERVs in human tissues and cells was analyzed. Substantial evidence documents that retrovirus particles were clearly demonstrable in various tissues and cells in both health and disease and were abundant in the placenta and that their occurrence could be implicated in some of the reproductive diseases. The characteristics of HERVs are summarized, mechanisms of replication and regulation are outlined, and the consistent hormonal responsiveness of HERVs is noted. Clear evidence implicating HERV gene products as participants in glomerulonephritis in some cases of systemic lupus erythematosus is adduced. Data implicating HERVs as etiologic factors in reproductive diseases, in some of the autoimmune diseases, in some forms of rheumatoid arthritis and connective tissue disease, in psoriasis, and in some of the inflammatory neurologic diseases are reviewed. The current major needs are to improve methods for HERV detection, to identify the most appropriate HERV prototypes, and to develop diagnostic reagents so that the putative biologic and pathologic roles of HERVs can be better evaluated.

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