Exchange of genetic sequences between viruses and hosts

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Although genetic transfer between viruses and vertebrate hosts occurs less frequently than gene flow between bacteriophages and prokaryotes, it is extensive and has affected the evolution of both parties. With retroviruses, the integration of proviral DNA into chromosomal DNA can result in the activation of adjacent host gene expression and in the transduction of host transcripts into retroviral genomes as oncogenes. Yet in contrast to lysogenic phage, there is little evidence that viral oncogenes persist in a chain of natural transmission or that retroviral transduction is a significant driver of the horizontal spread of host genes. Conversely, integration of proviruses into the host germ line has generated endogenous retroviral genomes (ERV) in all vertebrate genomes sequenced to date. Some of these genomes retain potential infectivity and upon reactivation may transmit to other host species. During mammalian evolution, sequences of retroviral origin have been repurposed to serve host functions, such as the viral envelope glycoproteins crucial to the development of the placenta. Beyond retroviruses, DNA viruses with complex genomes have acquired numerous genes of host origin which influence replication, pathogenesis and immune evasion, while host species have accumulated germline sequences of both DNA and RNA viruses. A codicil is added on lateral transmission of cancer cells between hosts and on migration of host mitochondria into cancer cells.




Weiss, R. A. (2017). Exchange of genetic sequences between viruses and hosts. In Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology (Vol. 407, pp. 1–29). Springer Verlag.

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