Genes of the Pseudoviridae (Ty1/copia retrotransposons)

Brooke D. Peterson-Burch, Daniel F. Voytas

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85 Scopus citations


A comprehensive survey of the Pseudoviridae (Ty1/copia) retroelement family was conducted using the GenBank sequence database and completed genome sequences of several model organisms. Plant genomes were the most abundant sources of Pseudoviridae, with the Arabidopsis thaliana genome having 276 distinct elements. A reverse transcriptase amino acid sequence phylogeny indicated that the Pseudoviridae comprises highly divergent members. Coding sequences for a representative subset of elements were analyzed to identify conserved domains and differences that may underlie functional divergence. With the exception of some fungal elements (e.g., Ty1), most Pseudoviridae encode Gag and Pol on a single open reading frame. In addition to the nearly ubiquitous RNA-binding motif of nucleocapsid, three new conserved domains were identified in Gag, pol-encoded aspartic protease was similar to the retroviral enzyme and could be mapped onto the HIV-1 structure. Pol was highly conserved throughout the family. The greatest divergence among Pol sequences was seen in the C-terminus of integrase (IN). We defined a large motif (GKGY) after the IN catalytic domain that is unique to the Pseudoviridae. Additionally, the extreme C-terminus of IN is rich in simple sequence motifs. A distinct lineage of Pseudoviridae in plants have envlike genes. This lineage has undergone a large expansion of Gag characterized by an α-helix-rich domain containing coiled-coil motifs. In several elements, this domain is flanked on both sides by RNA-binding domains. We propose that this monophyletic lineage defines a new Pseudoviridae genus, herein referred to as the Agrovirus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1832-1845
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2002


  • Pseudoviridae
  • Retrotransposon
  • env
  • gag
  • pol


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