A HERV-K provirus in chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas, but not humans

Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, United States
Current Biology (Impact Factor: 9.57). 06/2001; 11(10):779-83. DOI: 10.1016/S0960-9822(01)00227-5
Source: PubMed


Evidence from DNA sequencing studies strongly indicated that humans and chimpanzees are more closely related to each other than either is to gorillas [1-4]. However, precise details of the nature of the evolutionary separation of the lineage leading to humans from those leading to the African great apes have remained uncertain. The unique insertion sites of endogenous retroviruses, like those of other transposable genetic elements, should be useful for resolving phylogenetic relationships among closely related species. We identified a human endogenous retrovirus K (HERV-K) provirus that is present at the orthologous position in the gorilla and chimpanzee genomes, but not in the human genome. Humans contain an intact preintegration site at this locus. These observations provide very strong evidence that, for some fraction of the genome, chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas are more closely related to each other than they are to humans. They also show that HERV-K replicated as a virus and reinfected the germline of the common ancestor of the four modern species during the period of time when the lineages were separating and demonstrate the utility of using HERV-K to trace human evolution.

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    • "Ray et al. 2005) is based on only a few insertions. Moreover, when rapid radiations occur, insertions can be shared by non-sister taxa (Barbulescu et al., 2001; Osterholz et al., 2009). Contrasting results , also with low maximum parsimony bootstrap support, have been obtained in DNA studies that group Atelidae and Pitheciidae as sister taxon to Cebidae (Canavez et al., 1999; Harada et al., 1995; Opazo et al., 2006; Porter et al., 1997). "
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    Full-text · Article · Aug 2009 · Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
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    ABSTRACT: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Washington, 2007. The evolution of retroviral elements and their hosts is inextricably tied together throughout the animal kingdom. Retroviral elements selfishly unleash an onslaught of tactics to replicate themselves within host cells while the host must fight back with an arsenal of weaponry that has been honed over hundreds of millions of years to protect host genomes from invasion by these selfish retroviral elements. Host and virus are perpetually locked in this evolutionary arms race that leaves distinct footprints on both genomes that can be "read" using molecular evolution techniques. Here I present an in depth study of one such host gene, APOBEC3H, that has dutifully served its primate hosts to limit retroviral replication for millions of years. Most humans, however, have recently lost the services of this retroviral defense gene, leaving these individuals more susceptible to several retroviral pathogens with large current-day impacts on human health and evolution, including HIV-1, LINE-1 and Alu elements.
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