Pettersson ME, Jern P
Genes 10 (2) 162 [2019-02-20; online 2019-02-20]
Retroviruses have invaded vertebrate hosts for millions of years and left an extensive endogenous retrovirus (ERV) record in the host genomes, which provides a remarkable source for an evolutionary perspective on retrovirus-host associations. Here we identified ERV variation across whole-genomes from two chicken lines, derived from a common founder population subjected to 50 years of bi-directional selection on body weight, and a distantly related domestic chicken line as a comparison outgroup. Candidate ERV loci, where at least one of the chicken lines indicated distinct differences, were analyzed for adjacent host genomic landscapes, selective sweeps, and compared by sequence associations to reference assembly ERVs in phylogenetic analyses. Current data does not support selection acting on specific ERV loci in the domestic chicken lines, as determined by presence inside selective sweeps or composition of adjacent host genes. The varying ERV records among the domestic chicken lines associated broadly across the assembly ERV phylogeny, indicating that the observed insertion differences result from pre-existing and segregating ERV loci in the host populations. Thus, data suggest that the observed differences between the host lineages are best explained by substantial standing ERV variation within host populations, and indicates that even truncated, presumably old, ERVs have not yet become fixed in the host population.