Human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) occupy approximately 8% of human genome. HERVs, which are transcribed in early embryos, are epigenetically silenced in somatic cells, except in pathological contexts. HERV-K is thought to protect the embryo from exogenous viral infection. However, uncontrollable HERV-K expression in somatic cells has been implicated in several diseases. Here, we show that SOX2, which plays a key role in maintaining pluripotency of stem cells, is critical for the transcription of HERV-K LTR5Hs. HERV-K can undergo retrotransposition within producer cells in the absence of Env expression. Furthermore, new HERV-K integration sites were identified in a long-term culture of induced pluripotent stem cells, which express SOX2. Together, these results suggest the possibility that the strict dependence of HERV-K on SOX2 have allowed contribution of HERV-K to the protection of early embryos during evolution while limiting potentially harmful effects of HERV-K retrotransposition on host genome integrity to these early embryos.
- IPS cells
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)
- Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)