A novel active endogenous retrovirus family contributes to genome variability in rat inbred strains


  • Y. Wang
  • F. Liska
  • C. Gosele
  • L. Sedova
  • V. Kren
  • D. Krenova
  • Z. Ivics
  • N. Huebner
  • Z. Izsvak


  • Genome Research


  • Genome Res 20 (1): 19-27


  • Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) contribute to a range of germline- as well as somatic mutations in mammals. However, autonomous retrotransposition of potentially active elements has not been demonstrated in the rat genome. We cloned an insertion that disrupted the normal splicing of the Centrob (also known as Lip8 gene that was subsequently identified as a nonautonomous, novel endogenous retrovirus of the RnERV-K8e family. The RnERV-K8e family is closely related to the recently reported MmERV-K10c elements, but differs from the autonomous mouse MusD or IAP families. In addition, we identified a novel, unexpectedly close relative of RnERV-K8e in the mouse, suggesting ERV-K cross-species transmission between mice and rats. We cloned a potentially autonomous RnERV-K8e element identified by in silico analysis and, using an in vitro retrotransposition assay, demonstrated that it is capable of retrotransposition. This particular element (named Rat-rho pronounced "retro") encodes a retroviral envelope gene (env); however env is not required for de novo retrotransposition events. Significant levels of RnERV-K8e-associated genetic polymorphisms were detected among inbred rat strains, suggesting ongoing retrotransposition in the rat genome. This study identifies an ERV-K-type family in rats that shows obvious signs of recent activity. Ongoing retrotranspositional activity may significantly add to genomic variability among inbred rat strains.