Humans are symbiotic organisms; our genome is populated with a substantial number of endogenous retroviruses (ERVs), some remarkably intact, while others are remnants of their former selves. Current research indicates that not all ERVs remain silent passengers within our genomes; re-activation of ERVs is often associated with inflammatory diseases. ERVK is the most recently endogenized and transcriptionally active ERV in humans, and as such may potentially contribute to the pathology of inflammatory disease. Here, we showcase the transcriptional regulation of ERVK. Expression of ERVs is regulated in part by epigenetic mechanisms, but also depends on transcriptional regulatory elements present within retroviral long terminal repeats (LTRs). These LTRs are responsive to both viral and cellular transcription factors; and we are just beginning to appreciate the full complexity of transcription factor interaction with the viral promoter. In this review, an exploration into the inflammatory transcription factor sites within the ERVK LTR will highlight the possible mechanisms by which ERVK is induced in inflammatory diseases.
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