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    Reverse-transcribing retroviruses exist as horizontally transmitted infectious agents or vertically transmitted endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) resident in eukaryotic genomes, and they are phylogenetically related to the long terminal repeat (LTR) class of retrotransposons. ERVs and retrotransposons are often distinguished only by the presence or absence of a gene encoding the envelope glycoprotein (env). Endogenous elements of the virus family Metaviridae include the insect-restricted Errantivirus genus of ERVs, for which some members possess env, and the pan-eukaryotic Metavirus genus that lacks an envelope glycoprotein gene. Here we report a novel Nematoda endogenous retrovirus (NERV) clade with core retroviral genes arranged uniquely as a continuous gag-env-pro-pol ORF. Reverse transcriptase sequences were phylogenetically related to metaviruses, but envelope glycoprotein sequences resembled those of the Nyamiviridae and Chrysoviridae RNA virus families, suggesting env gene capture during host cell infection by an RNA virus. NERVs were monophyletic, restricted to the nematode subclass Chromadoria, and included additional ORFs for a small hypothetical protein or a large Upf1-like RNA-dependent AAA-ATPase/helicase indicative of viral transduction of a host gene. Provirus LTR identity, low copy number, ORF integrity and segregation of three loci in Meloidogyne incognita, taken together with detection of NERV transcriptional activity, support potential infectivity of NERVs, along with their recent emergence and integration. Altogether, NERVs constitute a new and distinct Metaviridae lineage demonstrating retroviral evolution through sequential heterologous gene capture events.


    Melanie Ann Sacco, Jonathan Lau, Damaris Godinez-Vidal, Isgouhi Kaloshian. Non-canonical nematode endogenous retroviruses resulting from RNA virus glycoprotein gene capture by a metavirus. The Journal of general virology. 2022 May;103(5)

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    PMID: 35550022

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