Discovery of a novel retrovirus sequence in an Australian native rodent (Melomys burtoni): a putative link between gibbon ape leukemia virus and koala retrovirus.
ABSTRACT: Gibbon ape leukaemia virus (GALV) and koala retrovirus (KoRV) share a remarkably close sequence identity despite the fact that they occur in distantly related mammals on different continents. It has previously been suggested that infection of their respective hosts may have occurred as a result of a species jump from another, as yet unidentified vertebrate host. To investigate possible sources of these retroviruses in the Australian context, DNA samples were obtained from 42 vertebrate species and screened using PCR in order to detect proviral sequences closely related to KoRV and GALV. Four proviral partial sequences totalling 2880 bases which share a strong similarity with KoRV and GALV were detected in DNA from a native Australian rodent, the grassland melomys, Melomys burtoni. We have designated this novel gammaretrovirus Melomys burtoni retrovirus (MbRV). The concatenated nucleotide sequence of MbRV shares 93% identity with the corresponding sequence from GALV-SEATO and 83% identity with KoRV. The geographic ranges of the grassland melomys and of the koala partially overlap. Thus a species jump by MbRV from melomys to koalas is conceivable. However the genus Melomys does not occur in mainland South East Asia and so it appears most likely that another as yet unidentified host was the source of GALV.
Project description:A novel retrovirus, morphologically consistent with mammalian C-type retroviruses, was detected by electron microscopy in mitogen-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cell cultures from 163 koalas and in lymphoma tissue from 3 koalas. PCR amplified provirus from the blood and tissues of 17 wild and captive koalas, and reverse transcriptase-PCR demonstrated viral mRNA, viral genomic RNA, and reverse transcriptase activity in koala serum and cell culture supernatants. Comparison of viral sequences derived from genomic DNA and mRNA showed identity indicative of a single retroviral species-here designated koala retrovirus (KoRV). Southern blot analysis of koala tissue genomic DNA using labelled KoRV probes demonstrated banding consistent with an endogenous retrovirus. Complete and apparently truncated proviruses were detected in DNA of both clinically normal koalas and those with hematopoietic disease. KoRV-related viruses were not detected in other marsupials, and phylogenetic analysis showed that KoRV paradoxically clusters with gibbon ape leukemia virus (GALV). The strong similarity between GALV and KoRV suggests that these viruses are closely related and that recent cross-host transmission has occurred. The complete proviral DNA sequence of KoRV is reported.
Project description:Transspecies transmission of retroviruses is a frequent event, and the human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) is a well-known example. The gibbon ape leukaemia virus (GaLV) and koala retrovirus (KoRV), two gammaretroviruses, are also the result of a transspecies transmission, however from a still unknown host. Related retroviruses have been found in Southeast Asian mice although the sequence similarity was limited. Viruses with a higher sequence homology were isolated from Melomys burtoni, the Australian and Indonesian grassland melomys. However, only the habitats of the koalas and the grassland melomys in Australia are overlapping, indicating that the melomys virus may not be the precursor of the GaLV. Viruses closely related to GaLV/KoRV were also detected in bats. Therefore, given the fact that the habitats of the gibbons in Thailand and the koalas in Australia are far away, and that bats are able to fly over long distances, the hypothesis that retroviruses of bats are the origin of GaLV and KoRV deserves consideration. Analysis of previous transspecies transmissions of retroviruses may help to evaluate the potential of transmission of related retroviruses in the future, e.g., that of porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERVs) during xenotransplantation using pig cells, tissues or organs.
Project description:UNLABELLED:Gibbon ape leukemia virus (GALV) and koala retrovirus (KoRV) most likely originated from a cross-species transmission of an ancestral retrovirus into koalas and gibbons via one or more intermediate as-yet-unknown hosts. A virus highly similar to GALV has been identified in an Australian native rodent (Melomys burtoni) after extensive screening of Australian wildlife. GALV-like viruses have also been discovered in several Southeast Asian species, although screening has not been extensive and viruses discovered to date are only distantly related to GALV. We therefore screened 26 Southeast Asian rodent species for KoRV- and GALV-like sequences, using hybridization capture and high-throughput sequencing, in the attempt to identify potential GALV and KoRV hosts. Only the individuals belonging to a newly discovered subspecies of Melomys burtoni from Indonesia were positive, yielding an endogenous provirus very closely related to a strain of GALV. The sequence of the critical receptor domain for GALV infection in the Indonesian M. burtoni subsp. was consistent with the susceptibility of the species to GALV infection. The second record of a GALV in M. burtoni provides further evidence that M. burtoni, and potentially other lineages within the widespread subfamily Murinae, may play a role in the spread of GALV-like viruses. The discovery of a GALV in the most western part of the Australo-Papuan distribution of M. burtoni, specifically in a transitional zone between Asia and Australia (Wallacea), may be relevant to the cross-species transmission to gibbons in Southeast Asia and broadens the known distribution of GALVs in wild rodents. IMPORTANCE:Gibbon ape leukemia virus (GALV) and the koala retrovirus (KoRV) are very closely related, yet their hosts neither are closely related nor overlap geographically. Direct cross-species infection between koalas and gibbons is unlikely. Therefore, GALV and KoRV may have arisen via a cross-species transfer from an intermediate host whose range overlaps those of both gibbons and koalas. Using hybridization capture and high-throughput sequencing, we have screened a wide range of rodent candidate hosts from Southeast Asia for KoRV- and GALV-like sequences. Only a Melomys burtoni subspecies from Wallacea (Indonesia) was positive for GALV. We report the genome sequence of this newly identified GALV, the critical domain for infection of its potential cellular receptor, and its phylogenetic relationships with the other previously characterized GALVs. We hypothesize that Melomys burtoni, and potentially related lineages with an Australo-Papuan distribution, may have played a key role in cross-species transmission to other taxa.
Project description:Recently, a new endogenous koala gammaretrovirus, designated KoRV, was isolated from koalas. The KoRV genome shares 78% nucleotide identity with another gammaretrovirus, gibbon ape leukemia virus (GALV). KoRV is endogenous in koalas, while GALV is exogenous, suggesting that KoRV predates GALV and that gibbons and koalas acquired the virus at different times from a common source. We have determined that subtle adaptive differences between the KoRV and GALV envelope genes account for differences in their receptor utilization properties. KoRV represents a unique example of a gammaretrovirus whose envelope has evolved to allow for its expanded host range and zoonotic potential.
Project description:Although endogenous retroviruses are common across vertebrate genomes, the koala retrovirus (KoRV) is the only retrovirus known to be currently invading the germ line of its host. KoRV is believed to have first infected koalas in northern Australia less than two centuries ago. We examined KoRV in 28 koala museum skins collected in the late 19th and 20th centuries and deep sequenced the complete proviral envelope region from five northern Australian specimens. Strikingly, KoRV env sequences were conserved among koalas collected over the span of a century, and two functional motifs that affect viral infectivity were fixed across the museum koala specimens. We detected only 20 env polymorphisms among the koalas, likely representing derived mutations subject to purifying selection. Among northern Australian koalas, KoRV was already ubiquitous by the late 19th century, suggesting that KoRV evolved and spread among koala populations more slowly than previously believed. Given that museum and modern koalas share nearly identical KoRV sequences, it is likely that koala populations, for more than a century, have experienced increased susceptibility to diseases caused by viral pathogenesis.
Project description:Koala retrovirus (KoRV) is unique in that it exists as both an exogenous and actively endogenizing gamma retrovirus of koalas. While nine subtypes of KoRV have been recognized, focused study of these subtypes in koalas over time and with different health outcomes has been lacking. Therefore, in this study, three wild koala cohorts were established and monitored to examine KoRV proviral and expression data from koalas that either remained healthy over time, began healthy before developing chlamydial cystitis, or presented with chlamydial cystitis and were treated with antibiotics. Deep sequencing of the proviral KoRV envelope gene revealed KoRV-A, -B, -D, and -F to be the major subtypes in this population and allowed for subtype-specific assays to be created. Quantification of KoRV transcripts revealed that KoRV-D expression mirrored the total KoRV expression levels (106 copies/ml of plasma), with KoRV-A and KoRV-F expression being ?10-fold less and KoRV-B expression being ?100-fold less, when detected. Strikingly, there was significantly higher expression of KoRV-D in healthy koalas than in koalas that developed chlamydial cystitis, with healthy koalas expressing a major KoRV-D/minor KoRV-A profile, whereas koalas that developed cystitis had variable KoRV expression profiles. Total anti-KoRV IgG antibody levels were found not to correlate with the expression of total KoRV or any individual KoRV subtype. Finally, KoRV expression was consistent between systemic and mucosal body sites and during antibiotic treatment. Collectively, this gives a comprehensive picture of KoRV dynamics during several important koala health states.IMPORTANCE The long-term survival of the koala is under serious threat, with this iconic marsupial being declared "vulnerable" by the Australian Government and officially listed as a threatened species. KoRV is clearly contributing to the overall health status of koalas, and research into this virus has been lacking detailed study of the multiple subtypes at both the proviral and expressed viral levels over time. By designing new subtype-specific assays and following well-defined koala cohorts over time, this study has generated a new more complete picture of KoRV and its relationship to koala health outcomes in the wild. Only by building a comprehensive picture of KoRV during both koala health and disease can we bring meaningful koala health interventions into better focus.
Project description:The koala retrovirus (KoRV) is the only retrovirus known to be in the midst of invading the germ line of its host species. Hybridization capture and next generation sequencing were used on modern and museum DNA samples of koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) to examine ca. 130 years of evolution across the full KoRV genome. Overall, the entire proviral genome appeared to be conserved across time in sequence, protein structure and transcriptional binding sites. A total of 138 polymorphisms were detected, of which 72 were found in more than one individual. At every polymorphic site in the museum koalas, one of the character states matched that of modern KoRV. Among non-synonymous polymorphisms, radical substitutions involving large physiochemical differences between amino acids were elevated in env, potentially reflecting anti-viral immune pressure or avoidance of receptor interference. Polymorphisms were not detected within two functional regions believed to affect infectivity. Host sequences flanking proviral integration sites were also captured; with few proviral loci shared among koalas. Recently described variants of KoRV, designated KoRV-B and KoRV-J, were not detected in museum samples, suggesting that these variants may be of recent origin.
Project description:Koala retrovirus (KoRV) displays features of both an endogenous and exogenous virus and is linked to neoplasia and immunosuppression in koalas. This study explores the apparent differences in the nature and impact of KoRV infection between geographically and genetically separated "northern" and "southern" koala populations, by investigating the disease status, completeness of the KoRV genome and the proviral (DNA) and viral (RNA) loads of 71 northern and 97 southern koalas. All northern animals were positive for all KoRV genes (gag, pro-pol and env) in both DNA and RNA forms, whereas many southern animals were missing one or more KoRV genes. There was a significant relationship between the completeness of the KoRV genome and clinical status in this population. The proviral and viral loads of the northern population were significantly higher than those of the southern population (P?<?0.0001), and many provirus-positive southern animals failed to express any detectable KoRV RNA. Across both populations there was a positive association between proviral load and neoplasia (P?=?0.009). Potential reasons for the differences in the nature of KoRV infection between the two populations are discussed.
Project description:Koala retrovirus (KoRV) is of an interest to virologists due to its currently active endogenization into the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) genome. Although KoRV has frequently been isolated in wild and captive koala populations, its pathogenesis and transmission remain to be fully characterized, and most previous research has concentrated on adult koalas rather than on joeys. Here, we characterized KoRV isolates obtained from a deceased male joey and its parents (animals reared in a Japanese zoo) to investigate KoRV transmission mode and pathogenesis. We sequenced the KoRV long terminal repeat (LTR) and envelope genes isolated from the joey and its parents and found KoRV-A and KoRV-C in genomic DNA from both the parents and the joey. Notably, both parents were also positive for KoRV-B, whereas the joey was KoRV-B negative, further confirming that KoRV-B is an exogenous strain. The KoRV LTR sequence of the joey was considerably closer to that of its sire than its dam. For further characterization, total KoRV, KoRV-A, KoRV-B, and KoRV-C proviral loads were quantified in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from the parents and in blood samples from the joey. Total KoRV, KoRV-A, and KoRV-C proviral loads were also quantified for different tissues (bone, liver, kidney, lung, spleen, heart, and muscle) from the joey, revealing differences suggestive of a distinct tissue tropism (highest total KoRV proviral load in the spleen and lowest in bone). The amount of KoRV-C in the parents was less than that in the joey. Our findings contribute to an improved understanding of KoRV pathogenesis and transmission mode and highlight useful areas for future research.IMPORTANCE KoRV is unique among retroviruses in that one strain (KoRV-A) is undergoing endogenization, whereas the other main subtype (KoRV-B) and another subtype (KoRV-C) are reportedly exogenous strains. Its transmission and pathogenesis are of interest in the study of retroviruses and are crucial for any conservation strategy geared toward koala health. This study provides new evidence on the modes of KoRV transmission from parent koalas to their joey. We found vertical transmission of KoRV-A, confirming its endogenization, but with closer conservation between the joey and its sire than its dam (previous reports on joeys are rare but have postulated dam-to-joey vertical transmission). This is also the first report of a KoRV-B-negative joey from KoRV-B-positive parents, contrasting with the few previous reports of 100% transmission of KoRV-B from dams to joeys. Thus, the results in this study give some novel insights for the transmission mode of KoRV.
Project description:The koala retrovirus (KoRV) is implicated in several diseases affecting the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus). KoRV provirus can be present in the genome of koalas as an endogenous retrovirus (present in all cells via germline integration) or as exogenous retrovirus responsible for somatic integrations of proviral KoRV (present in a limited number of cells). This ongoing invasion of the koala germline by KoRV provides a powerful opportunity to assess the viral strategies used by KoRV in an individual. Analysis of a high-quality genome sequence of a single koala revealed 133 KoRV integration sites. Most integrations contain full-length, endogenous provirus; KoRV-A subtype. The second most frequent integrations contain an endogenous recombinant element (recKoRV) in which most of the KoRV protein-coding region has been replaced with an ancient, endogenous retroelement. A third set of integrations, with very low sequence coverage, may represent somatic cell integrations of KoRV-A, KoRV-B and two recently designated additional subgroups, KoRV-D and KoRV-E. KoRV-D and KoRV-E are missing several genes required for viral processing, suggesting they have been transmitted as defective viruses. Our results represent the first comprehensive analyses of KoRV integration and variation in a single animal and provide further insights into the process of retroviral-host species interactions.