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Open Access Research article

Study of Sylvilagus rabbit TRIM5α species-specific domain: how ancient endoviruses could have shaped the antiviral repertoire in Lagomorpha

Ana Lemos de Matos123, Wessel van der Loo1, Helena Areal12, Dennis K Lanning3 and Pedro J Esteves14*

Author Affiliations

1 Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, Campus Agrário de Vairão, 4485-661 Vairão, Portugal

2 Departamento de Zoologia e Antropologia, Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade do Porto, 4169-007 Porto, Portugal

3 Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago, Maywood, IL 60153, USA

4 Centro de Investigação em Tecnologias da Saúde, IPSN, CESPU, 4585-116 Gandra, Portugal

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2011, 11:294  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-294

Published: 8 October 2011



Since the first report of the antiretroviral restriction factor TRIM5α in primates, several orthologs in other mammals have been described. Recent studies suggest that leporid retroviruses like RELIK, the first reported endogenous lentivirus ever, may have imposed positive selection in TRIM5α orthologs of the European rabbit and European brown hare. Considering that RELIK must already have been present in a common ancestor of the leporid genera Lepus, Sylvilagus and Oryctolagus, we extended the study of evolutionary patterns of TRIM5α to other members of the Leporidae family, particularly to the genus Sylvilagus. Therefore, we obtained the TRIM5α nucleotide sequences of additional subspecies and species of the three leporid genera. We also compared lagomorph TRIM5α deduced protein sequences and established TRIM5α gene and TRIM5α protein phylogenies.


The deduced protein sequence of Iberian hare TRIM5α was 89% identical to European rabbit TRIM5α, although high divergence was observed at the PRYSPRY v1 region between rabbit and the identified alleles from this hare species (allele 1: 50% divergence; allele 2: 53% divergence). A high identity was expected between the Sylvilagus and Oryctolagus TRIM5α proteins and, in fact, the Sylvilagus TRIM5α was 91% identical to the Oryctolagus protein. Nevertheless, the PRYSPRY v1 region was only 50% similar between these genera. Selection analysis of Lagomorpha TRIM5α proteins identified 25 positively-selected codons, 11 of which are located in the PRYSPRY v1 region, responsible for species specific differences in viral capsid recognition.


By extending Lagomorpha TRIM5α studies to an additional genus known to bear RELIK, we verified that the divergent species-specific pattern observed between the Oryctolagus and Lepus PRYSPRY-domains is also present in Sylvilagus TRIM5α. This work is one of the first known studies that compare the evolution of the antiretroviral restriction factor TRIM5α in different mammalian groups, Lagomorpha and Primates.