Human endogenous retroviruses: transposable elements with potential?

Clin Exp Immunol. 2004 Oct;138(1):1-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2249.2004.02592.x.


Human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) are a significant component of a wider family of retroelements that constitute part of the human genome. These viruses, perhaps representative of previous exogenous retroviral infection, have been integrated and passed through successive generations within the germ line. The retention of HERVs and isolated elements, such as long-terminal repeats, could have the potential to harm. In this review we describe HERVs within the context of the family of known transposable elements and survey these viruses in terms of superantigens and molecular mimics. It is entirely possible that these mechanisms provide the potential for undesired immune responses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA Transposable Elements / genetics*
  • DNA, Viral / genetics
  • Endogenous Retroviruses / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genome, Human
  • Humans
  • Long Interspersed Nucleotide Elements / genetics
  • Retroviridae Infections / genetics
  • Short Interspersed Nucleotide Elements / genetics
  • Superantigens / genetics
  • Terminal Repeat Sequences / genetics
  • Virus Integration


  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • DNA, Viral
  • Superantigens