Retroviral Safety: Analyses of Phylogeny, Prevalence and Polymorphisms of Porcine Endogenous Retroviruses
M Niebert, R Kurth, R R Tönjes
Ann Transplant 2003; 8(3): 56-64
Available online: 2002-12-15
Porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERV) are discussed as putative infectious agents in xenotransplantation (XTx). PERV classes A, B, and C harboring different envelope proteins and two types of long terminal repeat (LTR) structures exist. One type of LTR contains a distinct repeat structure in U3, while the other is repeat-less and confers poor transcriptional activity. As the different LTR structures were found to be distributed unequally among the proviruses, we were interested in determining which LTR is the ancestor. Since replication-competent PERV can still be found today suggesting an evolutionary recent origin, we investigated the distribution and prevalence of six well-characterized and chromosomally assigned PERV in individuals of five different pig (Suidae, Sus scrofa) subspecies. Our studies revealed a heterogenous distribution of replication-competent PERV among individuals as well as among subspecies. The age of PERV was calculated to be 7.6x106 years, whereby the repeat-less LTR type evolved approximately 3.4x106 years ago being the phylogenetically younger structure. The age correlates with the time of separation between pigs and their closest relatives, american-borne peccaries (Tayassuidae, Pecari tajacu), 7.4x106 years ago.