A Primitive Endogenous Lentivirus in a Colugo: Insights into the Early Evolution of Lentiviruses

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Lentiviruses infect a wide range of mammal species. Much remains unknown about their deep history and host distribution. Here, we report the discovery of an endogenous lentivirus within the genome of the Sunda flying lemur (Galeopterus variegatus) (which we designate “Galeopterus variegatus endogenous lentivirus” [GvaELV]). We estimate the GvaELV genome invasion to have occurred more than 14 Ma, supporting an ancient origin of the lentivirus clade and an ancient lentiviral infection in colugo. Phylogenetic analyses show that GvaELV is a sister group of all previously known lentiviruses. The GvaELV genome appears to possess some primitive genomic features of a lentivirus, encoding not only a trans-activator of transcription (tat) gene but also two additional putative accessory genes that share no discernible similarity with other lentiviral accessory genes. The discovery of GvaELV provides novel insights into the prehistory and host distribution of lentivirus.

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