Short-term Visitor

Evolutionary dynamics of a recently colonized, transcriptionally active endogenous retrovirus.

PI(s): Mary Poss (Pennsylvania State University)
Start Date: 1-Oct-2013
End Date: 18-Apr-2014
Keywords: coevolution, natural populations, adaptation, evolutionary genetics, evolutionary computation

Endogenous retroviruses [ERV] and other transposable elements are implicated as major forces shaping genome evolution. Although common in vertebrate genomes, most ERV colonized their host genomes millions of years ago and are now fixed in the host species making it difficult to discern the coevolutionary history of an ERV and host as ERV establish in the host population. We recently reported on a novel endogenous retrovirus [CrERV] that is colonizing the genomes of mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and is transcriptionally active and polymorphic in integration profiles among individuals. This is an important finding because it represents the only large free-ranging species in which the evolution of endogenous retroviruses can be studied as they establish in the host genome. The goal of the sabbatical at NESCent is to advance understanding of CrERV evolution at the individual and population level. This research will entail modifications of existing approaches to virus evolution. New statistical and computational frameworks are needed to accommodate the high throughput sequencing approaches that we use to localize each CrERV based on its unique position in the mule deer genome and to derive sequence data of individual CrERV genomes from multiple animals. The tangible outcomes of the sabbatical research efforts will be manuscripts on CrERV evolution and preliminary data to support a grant application synthesizing ERV and host genome evolution. This project advances methodological integration of virus molecular evolution in the context of the host genome.