Pettersson ME, Jern P
Virus Evol 7 (1) veaa083 [2021-01-00; online 2020-11-06]
Retroviruses have infiltrated vertebrate germlines for millions of years as inherited endogenous retroviruses (ERVs). Mammalian genomes host large numbers of ERVs and transposable elements (TEs), including retrotransposons and DNA transposons, that contribute to genomic innovation and evolution as coopted genes and regulators of diverse functions. To explore features distinguishing coopted ERVs and TEs from other integrations, we focus on the potential role of ZBED6 and repeated ERV domestication as repurposed Syncytin genes. The placental mammal-specific ZBED6 is a DNA transposon-derived transcription regulator and we demonstrate that its binding motifs are associated with distinct Syncytins and that ZBED6 binding motifs are 2- to 3-fold more frequent in ERVs than in flanking DNA. Our observations suggest that ZBED6 could contribute an extended regulatory role of genomic expression, utilizing ERVs as platforms for genomic innovation and evolution.