Retrotransposable Elements and Gene Evolution
Endogenous retroviruses and animal reproductionPrudhomme S. · Bonnaud B. · Mallet F.
UMR 2142 CNRS-bioMérieux, IFR 128 BioSciences Lyon-Gerland, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, Lyon (France)
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Article / Publication Details
Endogenous retroviruses (ERV), as part of the host genetic heritage, are transmissible to the next generation in a Mendelian way. Their abundance in animal genomes and their expression primarily detected in germ cells, embryonic tissues and cancer cell lines, raised the question of their biological significance. This article reviews the possible role of ERVs in the physiology and diseases of animal reproduction, from Drosophila to human. In males, there is no trivial involvement of ERVs in a physiological process. Conversely, a spermatogenesis defect was associated in the human male with HERV-K expression and HERV15-induced chromosomal alteration, leading to cancer and infertility, respectively. In females, the study of insect ERVs (IERV) pointed out the overlap between genetics and virology with the genetic-dependent regulation of ZAM and the non-infectious and infectious life cycles of gypsy. The pattern of ERVs expression in rodent, ovine and human females suggest a hormone-dependent mechanism consistent with the mammalian oestrus cycle regulation. The differentiation of the mammary epithelium and breast tumorigenesis involving the mouse mammary tumour viruses (MMTV) illustrate the intimate connection between endogenous and exogenous retroviruses. Last, as a major site of ERVs transcription, placenta contributed to our understanding of ERVs modulation of neighbouring gene expression. As an interface, i.e. a site of conflicts and exchanges, placenta should resist infection and protect the foetus against the maternal immune system. Retroviral envelopes could theoretically provide such features due to receptor interference, immunosuppression and fusion properties, as shown by the HERV-W envelope involved in the syncytiotrophoblast formation. We conclude with an insight on the evolutionary and epigenetic consequences of the relationships of ERV guests with their animal hosts.
© 2005 S. Karger AG, Basel
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