Foamy-like endogenous retroviruses are extensive and abundant in teleosts

Ryan Ruboyianes, Michael Worobey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Recent discoveries indicate that the foamy virus (FV) (Spumavirus) ancestor may have been among the first retroviruses to appear during the evolution of vertebrates, demonstrated by foamy endogenous retroviruses present within deeply divergent hosts including mammals, coelacanth, and ray-finned fish. If they indeed existed in ancient marine environments hundreds of millions of years ago, significant undiscovered diversity of foamy-like endogenous retroviruses might be present in fish genomes. By screening published genomes and by applying PCR-based assays of preserved tissues, we discovered 23 novel foamy-like elements in teleost hosts. These viruses form a robust, reciprocally monophyletic sister clade with sarcopterygian host FV, with class III mammal endogenous retroviruses being the sister group to both clades. Some of these foamy-like retroviruses have larger genomes than any known retrovirus, exogenous or endogenous, due to unusually long gag-like genes and numerous accessory genes. The presence of genetic features conserved between mammalian FV and these novel retroviruses attests to a foamy-like replication biology conserved for hundreds of millions of years. We estimate that some of these viruses integrated recently into host genomes; exogenous forms of these viruses may still circulate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbervew032
JournalVirus Evolution
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2016


  • Endogenous Retrovirus
  • Fish
  • Foamy Virus
  • Paleovirology
  • Phylogeny

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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