The Deltaretrovirus genus of retroviruses (family Retroviridae) includes the human T cell leukemia viruses and bovine leukemia virus (BLV). Relatively little is known about the biology and evolution of these viruses, because only a few species have been identified and the genomic 'fossil record' is relatively sparse. Here, we report the discovery of multiple novel endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) derived from ancestral deltaretroviruses. These sequences-two of which contain complete or near complete internal coding regions-reside in genomes of several distinct mammalian orders, including bats, carnivores, cetaceans, and insectivores. We demonstrate that two of these ERVs contain unambiguous homologs of the tax gene, indicating that complex gene regulation has ancient origins within the Deltaretrovirus genus. ERVs demonstrate that the host range of the deltaretrovirus genus is much more extensive than suggested by the relatively small number of exogenous deltaretroviruses described so far, and allow the evolutionary timeline of deltaretrovirus-mammal interaction to be more accurately calibrated.
Keywords: BLV; Deltaretrovirus; Endogenous retrovirus; Evolution; HTLV; Leukemia; PTLV; Paleovirology; Retrovirus.