Human endogenous retrovirus type K (HERV-K) particles package and transmit HERV-K-related sequences

Rafael Contreras-Galindo, Mark H. Kaplan, Derek Dube, Marta J. Gonzalez-Hernandez, Susana Chan, Fan Meng, Manhong Dai, Gilbert S. Omenn, Scott D. Gitlin, David M. Markovitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Human endogenous retroviruses (HERV) make up 8% of the human genome. While the youngest of these retroviruses, HERVK( HML-2), termed HK2, is able to code for all viral proteins and produce virus-like particles, it is not known if these virus particles package and transmit HK2-related sequences. Here, we analyzed the capacity of HK2 for packaging and transmitting HK2 sequences. We created an HK2 probe, termed Bogota, which can be packaged into HK2 viruses, and transfected it into cells that make HK2 particles. Supernatants of the transfected cells, which contained HK2 viral particles, then were added to target cells, and the transmissibility of the HK2 Bogota reporter was tracked by G418 resistance. Our studies revealed that contemporary HK2 virions produced by some teratocarcinoma and breast cancer cell lines, as well as by peripheral blood lymphocytes from lymphoma patients, can package HK2 Bogota probes, and these viruses transmitted these probes to other cells. After transmission, HK2 Bogota transcripts undergo reverse transcription, a step impaired by antiretroviral agents or by introduction of mutations into the probe sequences required for reverse transcription. HK2 viruses were more efficiently transmitted in the presence of HK2 Rec or HIV-1 Tat and Vif. Transmitted Bogota probes formed episomes but did not integrate into the cellular genome. Resistance to integration might explain the relatively low number of HK2 insertions that were acquired during the last 25 million years of evolution. Whether transient transmission of modern HK2 sequences, which encode two putative oncoproteins, can lead to disease remains to be studied.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7187-7201
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number14
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, American Society for Microbiology.


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