The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Understanding the origins of primate retroviruses: Molecular epidemiology in deep time (and deep oceans)


Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona

Thursday 9:00-9:15, Ballroom A Add to calendar

Simian immunodefiency viruses (SIV) and simian foamy viruses (SFV) are the two most important retroviral lineages that cause infections in primates. SIV is well known as the progenitor of HIV, while SFV shows a fascinating pattern of co-divergence with its primate hosts. Despite their importance, major questions persist about the timeline of the origin and evolution of these viruses.

Endogenous retroviruses, formerly free-living viruses that are now part of the host genome, provide molecular fossils for studying the ancient evolutionary history of retroviruses. We have recently discovered (1) endogenous lentiviral insertions, related to SIV, within the genomes of several species of the weasel family (Mustelidae); (2) an endogenous foamy virus in the genome of the aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis), a basal lemur from Madagasgar; and (3) endogenous foamy virus-like elements in the genome of the coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae). The insights provided by these discoveries for understanding the long term origins and emergence of these retroviral lineages will be discussed.

This work was supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the NIAID

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