Identification of an envelope protein from the FRD family of human endogenous retroviruses (HERV-FRD) conferring infectivity and functional conservation among simians

J Virol. 2004 Jan;78(2):1050-4. doi: 10.1128/jvi.78.2.1050-1054.2004.


A member of the HERV-W family of human endogenous retroviruses (HERV) had previously been demonstrated to encode a functional envelope which can form pseudotypes with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 virions and confer infectivity on the resulting retrovirus particles. Here we show that a second envelope protein sorted out by a systematic search for fusogenic proteins that we made among all the HERV coding envelope genes and belonging to the HERV-FRD family can also make pseudotypes and confer infectivity. We further show that the orthologous envelope genes that were isolated from simians-from New World monkeys to humans-are also functional in the infectivity assay, with one singular exception for the gibbon HERV-FRD gene, which is found to be fusogenic in a cell-cell fusion assay, as observed for the other simian envelopes, but which is not infectious. Sequence comparison of the FRD envelopes revealed a limited number of mutations among simians, and one point mutation-located in the TM subunit-was shown to be responsible for the loss of infectivity of the gibbon envelope. The functional characterization of the identified envelopes is strongly indicative of an ancestral retrovirus infection and endogenization, with some of the envelope functions subsequently retained in evolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cebidae*
  • Cell Fusion
  • Cell Line
  • Conserved Sequence*
  • Endogenous Retroviruses / genetics
  • Endogenous Retroviruses / metabolism*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • HIV-1 / genetics
  • HIV-1 / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Point Mutation
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / chemistry
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / metabolism*
  • Virion / genetics
  • Virion / metabolism
  • Virion / pathogenicity


  • Viral Envelope Proteins