Infectious endogenous retroviruses in cats and emergence of recombinant viruses

Yukari Anai, Haruyo Ochi, Shinya Watanabe, So Nakagawa, Maki Kawamura, Takashi Gojobori, Kazuo Nishigaki*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Citations (SciVal)


Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) comprise a significant percentage of the mammalian genome, and it is poorly understood whether they will remain as inactive genomes or emerge as infectious retroviruses. Although several types of ERVs are present in domestic cats, infectious ERVs have not been demonstrated. Here, we report a previously uncharacterized class of endogenous gammaretroviruses, termed ERV-DCs, that is present and hereditary in the domestic cat genome. We have characterized a subset of ERV-DC proviral clones, which are numbered according to their genomic insertions. One of these, ERV-DC10, located in the q12-q21 region on chromosome C1, is an infectious gammaretrovirus capable of infecting a broad range of cells, including human. Our studies indicate that ERV-DC10 entered the genome of domestic cats in the recent past and appeared to translocate to or reintegrate at a distinct locus as infectious ERV-DC18. Insertional polymorphism analysis revealed that 92 of 244 domestic cats had ERV-DC10 on a homozygous or heterozygous locus. ERV-DC-like sequences were found in primate and rodent genomes, suggesting that these ERVs, and recombinant viruses such as RD-114 and BaEV, originated from an ancestor of ERV-DC. We also found that a novel recombinant virus, feline leukemia virus subgroup D (FeLV-D), was generated by ERV-DC env transduction into feline leukemia virus in domestic cats. Our results indicate that ERV-DCs behave as donors and/or acceptors in the generation of infectious, recombinant viruses. The presence of such infectious endogenous retroviruses, which could be harmful or beneficial to the host, may affect veterinary medicine and public health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8634-8644
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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