A recent gibbon ape leukemia virus germline integration in a rodent from New Guinea


  • S. Mottaghinia
  • S. Stenzel
  • K. Tsangaras
  • N. Nikolaidis
  • M. Laue
  • K. Müller
  • H. Hölscher
  • U. Löber
  • G.K. McEwen
  • S.C. Donnellan
  • K.C. Rowe
  • K.P. Aplin
  • C. Goffinet
  • A.D. Greenwood


  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America


  • Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 121 (6): e2220392121


  • Germline colonization by retroviruses results in the formation of endogenous retroviruses (ERVs). Most colonization's occurred millions of years ago. However, in the Australo-Papuan region (Australia and New Guinea), several recent germline colonization events have been discovered. The Wallace Line separates much of Southeast Asia from the Australo-Papuan region restricting faunal and pathogen dispersion. West of the Wallace Line, gibbon ape leukemia viruses (GALVs) have been isolated from captive gibbons. Two microbat species from China appear to have been infected naturally. East of Wallace's Line, the woolly monkey virus (a GALV) and the closely related koala retrovirus (KoRV) have been detected in eutherians and marsupials in the Australo-Papuan region, often vertically transmitted. The detected vertically transmitted GALV-like viruses in Australo-Papuan fauna compared to sporadic horizontal transmission in Southeast Asia and China suggest the GALV-KoRV clade originates in the former region and further models of early-stage genome colonization may be found. We screened 278 samples, seven bat and one rodent family endemic to the Australo-Papuan region and bat and rodent species found on both sides of the Wallace Line. We identified two rodents (Melomys) from Australia and Papua New Guinea and no bat species harboring GALV-like retroviruses. Melomys leucogaster from New Guinea harbored a genomically complete replication-competent retrovirus with a shared integration site among individuals. The integration was only present in some individuals of the species indicating this retrovirus is at the earliest stages of germline colonization of the Melomys genome, providing a new small wild mammal model of early-stage genome colonization.