Virology: Pushing the envelope

Primates have co-opted a viral gene to produce an envelope protein that prevents infection by the HERV-T virus and likely contributed to the extinction of this virus.
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Figures

Co-option of a viral protein for receptor interference.

Left: Cells expressing MCT1 (blue), which is the receptor for a retrovirus called HERV-T, are susceptible to infection from a virus that encodes a surface envelope protein produced by an ancestral form of HERV-T (red). Right: Our genome contains proviruses – copies of the DNA of ancient retroviruses, including HERV-T. Blanco-Melo et al. found that human cells can still produce envelope proteins from their copy of the env gene of the HERV-T provirus. These envelope proteins protect the cells from the resurrected virus by blocking the MCT1 receptors directly, or through the degradation of the resulting receptor-protein complex.

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  1. Julia H Wildschutte
  2. John M Coffin
(2017)
Virology: Pushing the envelope
eLife 6:e26397.
https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.26397