A novel recombinant retrovirus in the genomes of modern birds combines features of avian and mammalian retroviruses.
ABSTRACT: Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) represent ancestral sequences of modern retroviruses or their extinct relatives. The majority of ERVs cluster alongside exogenous retroviruses into two main groups based on phylogenetic analyses of the reverse transcriptase (RT) enzyme. Class I includes gammaretroviruses, and class II includes lentiviruses and alpha-, beta-, and deltaretroviruses. However, analyses of the transmembrane subunit (TM) of the envelope glycoprotein (env) gene result in a different topology for some retroviruses, suggesting recombination events in which heterologous env sequences have been acquired. We previously demonstrated that the TM sequences of five of the six genera of orthoretroviruses can be divided into three types, each of which infects a distinct set of vertebrate classes. Moreover, these classes do not always overlap the host range of the associated RT classes. Thus, recombination resulting in acquisition of a heterologous env gene could in theory facilitate cross-species transmissions across vertebrate classes, for example, from mammals to reptiles. Here we characterized a family of class II avian ERVs, "TgERV-F," that acquired a mammalian gammaretroviral env sequence. Although TgERV-F clusters near a sister clade to alpharetroviruses, its genome also has some features of betaretroviruses. We offer evidence that this unusual recombinant has circulated among several avian orders and may still have infectious members. In addition to documenting the infection of a nongalliform avian species by a mammalian retrovirus, TgERV-F also underscores the importance of env sequences in reconstructing phylogenies and supports a possible role for env swapping in allowing cross-species transmissions across wide taxonomic distances.Retroviruses can sometimes acquire an envelope gene (env) from a distantly related retrovirus. Since env is a key determinant of host range, such an event affects the host range of the recombinant virus and can lead to the creation of novel retroviral lineages. Retroviruses insert viral DNA into the host DNA during infection, and therefore vertebrate genomes contain a "fossil record" of endogenous retroviral sequences thought to represent past infections of germ cells. We examined endogenous retroviral sequences in avian genomes for evidence of recombination events involving env. Although cross-species transmissions of retroviruses between vertebrate classes (from mammals to birds, for example) are thought to be rare, we here characterized a group of avian retroviruses that acquired an env sequence from a mammalian retrovirus. We offer evidence that this unusual recombinant circulated among songbirds 2 to 4 million years ago and has remained active into the recent past.
Project description:Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) are widespread in vertebrate genomes and have been loosely grouped into "classes" on the basis of their phylogenetic relatedness to the established genera of exogenous retroviruses. Four of these genera-the lentiviruses, alpharetroviruses, betaretroviruses, and deltaretroviruses-form a well-supported clade in retroviral phylogenies, and ERVs that group with these genera have been termed class II ERVs. We used PCR amplification and sequencing of retroviral fragments from more than 130 vertebrate taxa to investigate the evolution of the class II retroviruses in detail. We confirm that class II retroviruses are largely confined to mammalian and avian hosts and provide evidence for a major novel group of avian retroviruses, and we identify additional members of both the alpha- and the betaretrovirus genera. Phylogenetic analyses demonstrated that the avian and mammalian viruses form distinct monophyletic groups, implying that interclass transmission has occurred only rarely during the evolution of the class II retroviruses. In contrast to previous reports, the lentiviruses clustered as sister taxa to several endogenous retroviruses derived from rodents and insectivores. This topology was further supported by the shared loss of both the class II PR-Pol frameshift site and the class II retrovirus G-patch domain.
Project description:Although extensive research has demonstrated host-retrovirus microevolutionary dynamics, it has been difficult to gain a deeper understanding of the macroevolutionary patterns of host-retrovirus interactions. Here we use recent technological advances to infer broad patterns in retroviral diversity, evolution, and host-virus relationships by using a large-scale phylogenomic approach using endogenous retroviruses (ERVs). Retroviruses insert a proviral DNA copy into the host cell genome to produce new viruses. ERVs are provirus insertions in germline cells that are inherited down the host lineage and consequently present a record of past host-viral associations. By mining ERVs from 65 host genomes sampled across vertebrate diversity, we uncover a great diversity of ERVs, indicating that retroviral sequences are much more prevalent and widespread across vertebrates than previously appreciated. The majority of ERV clades that we recover do not contain known retroviruses, implying either that retroviral lineages are highly transient over evolutionary time or that a considerable number of retroviruses remain to be identified. By characterizing the distribution of ERVs, we show that no major vertebrate lineage has escaped retroviral activity and that retroviruses are extreme host generalists, having an unprecedented ability for rampant host switching among distantly related vertebrates. In addition, we examine whether the distribution of ERVs can be explained by host factors predicted to influence viral transmission and find that internal fertilization has a pronounced effect on retroviral colonization of host genomes. By capturing the mode and pattern of retroviral evolution and contrasting ERV diversity with known retroviral diversity, our study provides a cohesive framework to understand host-virus coevolution better.
Project description:The deep history and early diversification of retroviruses remains elusive, largely because few retroviruses have been characterized in vertebrates other than mammals and birds. Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) documented past retroviral infections and thus provide 'molecular fossils' for studying the deep history of retroviruses. Here we perform a comprehensive phylogenomic analysis of ERVs within the genomes of 92 non-avian/mammalian vertebrates, including 72 fishes, 4 amphibians, and 16 reptiles. We find that ERVs are present in all the genomes of jawed vertebrates, revealing the ubiquitous presence of ERVs in jawed vertebrates. We identify a total of >8,000 ERVs and reconstruct ~450 complete or partial ERV genomes, which dramatically expands the phylogenetic diversity of retroviruses and suggests that the diversity of exogenous retroviruses might be much underestimated in non-avian/mammalian vertebrates. Phylogenetic analyses show that retroviruses cluster into five major groups with different host distributions, providing important insights into the classification and diversification of retroviruses. Moreover, we find retroviruses mainly underwent frequent host switches in non-avian/mammalian vertebrates, with exception of spumavirus-related viruses that codiverged with their ray-finned fish hosts. Interestingly, ray-finned fishes and turtles appear to serve as unappreciated hubs for the transmission of retroviruses. Finally, we find retroviruses underwent many independent water-land transmissions, indicating the water-land interface is not a strict barrier for retrovirus transmission. Our analyses provide unprecedented insights into and valuable resources for studying the diversification, key evolutionary transitions, and macroevolution of retroviruses.
Project description:Genomic data provide an excellent resource to improve understanding of retrovirus evolution and the complex relationships among viruses and their hosts. In conjunction with broad-scale in silico screening of vertebrate genomes, this resource offers an opportunity to complement data on the evolution and frequency of past retroviral spread and so evaluate future risks and limitations for horizontal transmission between different host species. Here, we develop a methodology for extracting phylogenetic signal from large endogenous retrovirus (ERV) datasets by collapsing information to facilitate broad-scale phylogenomics across a wide sample of hosts. Starting with nearly 90,000 ERVs from 60 vertebrate host genomes, we construct phylogenetic hypotheses and draw inferences regarding the designation, host distribution, origin, and transmission of the Gammaretrovirus genus and associated class I ERVs. Our results uncover remarkable depths in retroviral sequence diversity, supported within a phylogenetic context. This finding suggests that current infectious exogenous retrovirus diversity may be underestimated, adding credence to the possibility that many additional exogenous retroviruses may remain to be discovered in vertebrate taxa. We demonstrate a history of frequent horizontal interorder transmissions from a rodent reservoir and suggest that rats may have acted as important overlooked facilitators of gammaretrovirus spread across diverse mammalian hosts. Together, these results demonstrate the promise of the methodology used here to analyze large ERV datasets and improve understanding of retroviral evolution and diversity for utilization in wider applications.
Project description:The majority of retroviral envelope glycoproteins characterized to date are typical of type I viral fusion proteins, having a receptor binding subunit associated with a fusion subunit. The fusion subunits of lentiviruses and alpha-, beta-, delta- and gammaretroviruses have a very conserved domain organization and conserved features of secondary structure, making them suitable for phylogenetic analyses. Such analyses, along with sequence comparisons, reveal evidence of numerous recombination events in which retroviruses have acquired envelope glycoproteins from heterologous sequences. Thus, the envelope gene (env) can have a history separate from that of the polymerase gene (pol), which is the most commonly used gene in phylogenetic analyses of retroviruses. Focusing on the fusion subunits of the genera listed above, we describe three distinct types of retroviral envelope glycoproteins, which we refer to as gamma-type, avian gamma-type and beta-type. By tracing these types within the 'fossil record' provided by endogenous retroviruses, we show that they have surprisingly distinct evolutionary histories and dynamics, with important implications for cross-species transmissions and the generation of novel lineages. These findings validate the utility of env sequences in contributing phylogenetic signal that enlarges our understanding of retrovirus evolution.
Project description:Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) are genetic elements with a retroviral origin that are integrated into vertebrate genomes. In felids (Mammalia, Carnivora, Felidae), ERVs have been described mostly in the domestic cat, and only rarely in wild species. To gain insight into the origins and evolutionary dynamics of endogenous retroviruses in felids, we have identified and characterized partial pro/pol ERV sequences from eight Neotropical wild cat species, belonging to three distinct lineages of Felidae. We also compared them with publicly available genomic sequences of Felis catus and Panthera tigris, as well as with representatives of other vertebrate groups, and performed phylogenetic and molecular dating analyses to investigate the pattern and timing of diversification of these retroviral elements.We identified a high diversity of ERVs in the sampled felids, with a predominance of Gammaretrovirus-related sequences, including class I ERVs. Our data indicate that the identified ERVs arose from at least eleven horizontal interordinal transmissions from other mammals. Furthermore, we estimated that the majority of the Gamma-like integrations took place during the diversification of modern felids. Finally, our phylogenetic analyses indicate the presence of a genetically divergent group of sequences whose position in our phylogenetic tree was difficult to establish confidently relative to known retroviruses, and another lineage identified as ERVs belonging to class II.Retroviruses have circulated in felids along with their evolution. The majority of the deep clades of ERVs exist since the primary divergence of felids' base and cluster with retroviruses of divergent mammalian lineages, suggesting horizontal interordinal transmission. Our findings highlight the importance of additional studies on the role of ERVs in the genome landscaping of other carnivore species.
Project description:Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) represent past retroviral infections and accordingly can provide an ideal framework to infer virus-host interaction over their evolutionary history. In this study, we target high quality Pol sequences from 7,994 Class I and 8,119 Class II ERVs from 69 mammalian genomes and surprisingly find that retroviruses harbored by bats and rodents combined occupy the major phylogenetic diversity of both classes. By analyzing transmission patterns of 30 well-defined ERV clades, we corroborate the previously published observation that rodents are more competent as originators of mammalian retroviruses and reveal that bats are more capable of receiving retroviruses from non-bat mammalian origins. The powerful retroviral hosting ability of bats is further supported by a detailed analysis revealing that the novel bat gammaretrovirus, Rhinolophus ferrumequinum retrovirus, likely originated from tree shrews. Taken together, this study advances our understanding of host-shaped mammalian retroviral evolution in general.
Project description:The ancestor of cetaceans underwent a macroevolutionary transition from land to water early in the Eocene Period >50 million years ago. However, little is known about how diverse retroviruses evolved during this shift from terrestrial to aquatic environments. Did retroviruses transition into water accompanying their hosts? Did retroviruses infect cetaceans through cross-species transmission after cetaceans invaded the aquatic environments? Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) provide important molecular fossils for tracing the evolution of retroviruses during this macroevolutionary transition. Here, we use a phylogenomic approach to study the origin and evolution of ERVs in cetaceans. We identify a total of 8,724 ERVs within the genomes of 25 cetaceans, and phylogenetic analyses suggest these ERVs cluster into 315 independent lineages, each of which represents one or more independent endogenization events. We find that cetacean ERVs originated through two possible routes. 298 ERV lineages may derive from retrovirus endogenization that occurred before or during the transition from land to water of cetaceans, and most of these cetacean ERVs were reaching evolutionary dead-ends. 17 ERV lineages are likely to arise from independent retrovirus endogenization events that occurred after the split of mysticetes and odontocetes, indicating that diverse retroviruses infected cetaceans through cross-species transmission from non-cetacean mammals after the transition to aquatic life of cetaceans. Both integration time and synteny analyses support the recent or ongoing activity of multiple retroviral lineages in cetaceans, some of which proliferated into hundreds of copies within the host genomes. Although ERVs only recorded a proportion of past retroviral infections, our findings illuminate the complex evolution of retroviruses during one of the most marked macroevolutionary transitions in vertebrate history.
Project description:We used the PCR to screen for the presence of endogenous retroviruses within the genomes of 18 vertebrate orders across eight classes, concentrating on reptilian, amphibian, and piscine hosts. Thirty novel retroviral sequences were isolated and characterized by sequencing approximately 1 kb of their encoded protease and reverse transcriptase genes. Isolation of novel viruses from so many disparate hosts suggests that retroviruses are likely to be ubiquitous within all but the most basal vertebrate classes and, furthermore, gives a good indication of the overall retroviral diversity within vertebrates. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated that viruses clustering with (but not necessarily closely related to) the spumaviruses and murine leukemia viruses are widespread and abundant in vertebrate genomes. In contrast, we were unable to identify any viruses from hosts outside of mammals and birds which grouped with the other five currently recognized retroviral genera: the lentiviruses, human T-cell leukemia-related viruses, avian leukemia virus-related retroviruses, type D retroviruses, and mammalian type B retroviruses. There was also some indication that viruses isolated from individual vertebrate classes tended to cluster together in phylogenetic reconstructions. This implies that the horizontal transmission of at least some retroviruses, between some vertebrate classes, occurs relatively infrequently. It is likely that many of the retroviral sequences described here are distinct enough from those of previously characterized viruses to represent novel retroviral genera.
Project description:Mammalian retroviruses cause a variety of diseases in their hosts, including hematological and immunodeficiency disorders. Both human T-cell leukemia (HTLV) and human immunodeficiency (HIV) viruses originated from several independent zoonotic transmissions, indicating that cross-species transmissions from animal to humans may still occur. Thus, as the risk for retroviral transmissions from animals to humans increase, we investigated whether mammalian retroviruses are involved in selected pediatric idiopathic diseases whose symptoms evoke retroviral infections. Blood samples, sera, and synovial fluids, or bone marrow cells were collected from pediatric patients under 18 years of age with different autoimmune idiopathic diseases. Overall, we screened clinical samples from 110 children using sensitive nested and semi-nested PCR strategies targeting env genes, and a C-type retrovirus reverse transcriptase (RT) activity kit. All clinical samples were free of retroviral signatures, indicating the unlikelihood of an etiological role of the retroviruses we assessed in the pediatric diseases we tested.