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Open Access Research article

Evolutionary history of bovine endogenous retroviruses in the Bovidae family

Koldo Garcia-Etxebarria and Begoña M Jugo*

Author Affiliations

Genetika, Antropologia Fisikoa eta Animalien Fisiologia Saila. Zientzia eta Teknologia Fakultatea, Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea (UPV/EHU), 644 Postakutxa, E-48080 Bilbao, Spain

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2013, 13:256  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-13-256

Published: 20 November 2013

Abstract

Background

Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) are genomic elements of retroviral origin that are present in the genomes of almost all vertebrates. In cattle, more than 13,000 elements related to ERVs have been detected, and based on the pol gene, 24 families or groups of bovine ERVs have been described. However, information about ERVs in other bovids and the presence of families of related bovine ERVs in different species of the Bovidae family is scarce.

Results

The 24 families of bovine ERVs previously detected in cattle (Bos taurus) were also detected in zebus (Bos indicus) and yaks (Bos grunniens). In addition, six new families, named BoERV25 to BoERV30, were detected in the three Bos species. Five more ruminant species were screened for related ERVs: 26 families were detected in these species, but four families (BoERV24, BoERV26, BoERV28 and BoERV29) were specific to cattle, zebus, yaks and buffalo. An analysis of the homology of the ERVs of cattle, zebus and yaks revealed that the level of LTR divergence was similar between ERVs from cattle and zebus but was less similar between with ERVs from cattle and yaks. In addition, purifying selection was detected in the genes and retroviral regions of clusters of ERVs of cattle, zebus and yaks.

Conclusions

In this work, the 24 ERV families previously identified in cattle were also found in two other species in the Bos genus. In addition, six new bovine ERV families were detected. Based on LTR divergence, the most recently inserted families are from Class II. The divergence of the LTR, used as an indirect estimate of the ERV insertion time, seemed to be influenced by the differences in genome evolution since the divergence of the species. In addition, purifying selection could be acting on clusters of ERVs from different species.