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human endogenous retroviruses

Monday 7 January 2008

Human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) result from ancestral infection by infectious viruses over millions of years of primate evolution.

Some are transcriptionally active, express proteins and therefore have the potential to cause disease. Here we review the controversial attempts to link them with cancer and autoimmunity.

The main difficulty is that most HERVs investigated to date are present at the same locus in 100% of the population.

However, a new class of insertionally polymorphic HERV-K family members, present in a minority of individuals, has recently been described.

Insertionally polymorphic HERVs could be novel genetic risk factors.


- Moyes D, Griffiths DJ, Venables PJ. Insertional polymorphisms: a new lease of life for endogenous retroviruses in human disease. Trends Genet. 2007 Jul;23(7):326-33. PMID: 17524519