Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Almost 8% of the human genome comprises endogenous retroviruses (ERVs). While they have been shown to cause specific pathologies in animals, such as cancer, their association with disease in humans remains controversial. The limited evidence is partly due to the physical and bioethical restrictions surrounding the study of transposons in humans, coupled with the major experimental and bioinformatics challenges surrounding the association of ERVs with disease in general. Two biotechnological landmarks of the past decade provide us with unprecedented research artillery: (i) the ultra-fine sequencing of the human genome and (ii) the emergence of high-throughput sequencing technologies. Here, we critically assemble research about potential pathologies of ERVs in humans. We argue that the time is right to revisit the long-standing questions of human ERV pathogenesis within a robust and carefully structured framework that makes full use of genomic sequence data. We also pose two thought-provoking research questions on potential pathophysiological roles of ERVs with respect to immune escape and regulation.

Type

Journal article

Journal

Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences

Publication Date

19/09/2013

Volume

368