Retroviruses are viruses made up of RNA genetic material. Endogenous retroviruses (ERV) are those sequences derived from retroviral infections introduced into the germinal line cells that, being incorporated in the genome, are transmitted from generation to generation. According to a number of investigations, the expression of ERV can benefit the host if it is controlled; it can help, for example, in the protection of the embryo. However, given its pathogenic nature, ERV also tends to be linked to cancer, schizophrenia and autoimmune diseases.
In any case, our knowledge about ERV is still scant. They have been detected in all mammals and in many vertebrates, but genic research in this regard has only been carried out on primates and rodents. Biologist Mr Koldo Garca has made a step forward in the field on studying ERV in cows and horses. He undertook the first genomic analysis of ERVs of two species respectively belonging to families of ruminants and equidae. His PhD thesis, presented at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), is entitled Erretrobirus endogenoen detekzioa eta karakterizazioa behietan eta beste hainbat mamaliotan (Detection and characterisation of endogenous retroviruses in cattle and a number of other mammals).
BoERV1, the most abundant amongst cattle
Mr Garca made use of computer tools in order to detect ERV. Concretely, he used three methods: the first based on the BLAST algorithm, and the other two on LTR_STRUC and Retrotector programmes. As a result, a total of 35 families of ERV (cows and horses), hitherto not appearing in the literature, were detected; in concrete, 24 possible families of ERV in cattle, 20 of which had not been described experimentally. Amongst the latter, Mr Garca highlighted the BoERV1 family, being the most abundant amongst those found. As shown in the thesis, it may be the case that this is a family of ERV specific to ruminants. With regard to horses, 15 possible famili
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