Article

Molecular characterization and placental expression of HERV-W, a new human endogenous retrovirus family.

Unité Mixte 103 CNRS-bioMérieux, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, 69364 Lyon, Cédex 07, France.
Journal of Virology (Impact Factor: 4.65). 03/1999; 73(2):1175-85.
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The multiple sclerosis-associated retrovirus (MSRV) isolated from plasma of MS patients was found to be phylogenetically and experimentally related to human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs). To characterize the MSRV-related HERV family and to test the hypothesis of a replication-competent HERV, we have investigated the expression of MSRV-related sequences in healthy tissues. The expression of MSRV-related transcripts restricted to the placenta led to the isolation of overlapping cDNA clones from a cDNA library. These cDNAs spanned a 7.6-kb region containing gag, pol, and env genes; RU5 and U3R flanking sequences; a polypurine tract; and a primer binding site (PBS). As this PBS showed similarity to avian retrovirus PBSs used by tRNATrp, this new HERV family was named HERV-W. Several genomic elements were identified, one of them containing a complete HERV-W unit, spanning all cDNA clones. Elements of this multicopy family were not replication competent, as gag and pol open reading frames (ORFs) were interrupted by frameshifts and stop codons. A complete ORF putatively coding for an envelope protein was found both on the HERV-W DNA prototype and within an RU5-env-U3R polyadenylated cDNA clone. Placental expression of 8-, 3.1-, and 1.3-kb transcripts was observed, and a putative splicing strategy was described. The apparently tissue-restricted HERV-W long terminal repeat expression is discussed with respect to physiological and pathological contexts.

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