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Viruses 2011, 3(6), 901-905;

Role of Human Endogenous Retroviral Long Terminal Repeats (LTRs) in Maintaining the Integrity of the Human Germ Line

Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Regulation, National Institute of Mental Health, 49 Convent Drive MSC 4483, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 27 April 2011 / Revised: 10 June 2011 / Accepted: 15 June 2011 / Published: 21 June 2011
(This article belongs to the Section Editorial)
PDF [185 KB, uploaded 12 May 2015]


Retroviruses integrate a reverse transcribed double stranded DNA copy of their viral genome into the chromosomal DNA of cells they infect. Occasionally, exogenous retroviruses infect germ cells and when this happens a profound shift in the virus host dynamic occurs. Retroviruses maintained as hereditable viral genetic material are referred to as endogenous retroviruses (ERVs). After millions of years of co-evolution with their hosts many human ERVs retain some degree of function and a few have even become symbionts. Thousands of copies of endogenous retrovirus long terminal repeats (LTRs) exist in the human genome. There are approximately 3000 to 4000 copies of the ERV-9 LTRs in the human genome and like other solo LTRs, ERV-9 LTRs can exhibit distinct promoter/enhancer activity in different cell lineages. It has been recently reported that a novel transcript of p63, a primordial member of the p53 family, is under the transcriptional control of an ERV-9 LTR [1]. The expression of different p63 transcript isoforms has been previously shown to have an important role in replenishing cutaneous epithelial stem cells and maintaining the fidelity of the female germ line [2]. In this recent report, a novel p63 transcript, designated GTAp63, is described as specifically expressed in healthy human testes and germ cell precursors of human testes but not in testicular cancer cells. The ability of ERV-9 regulatory regions to contribute to the maintenance of male germ line stability is yet another example of how ERVs have evolved to serve an important function in the physiology of their human hosts.
Keywords: genomic stability; retroelement; primate evolution genomic stability; retroelement; primate evolution
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Liu, M.; Eiden, M.V. Role of Human Endogenous Retroviral Long Terminal Repeats (LTRs) in Maintaining the Integrity of the Human Germ Line. Viruses 2011, 3, 901-905.

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