Marine origin of retroviruses in the early Palaeozoic Era.
Aiewsakun P., Katzourakis A.
Very little is known about the ancient origin of retroviruses, but owing to the discovery of their ancient endogenous viral counterparts, their early history is beginning to unfold. Here we report 36 lineages of basal amphibian and fish foamy-like endogenous retroviruses (FLERVs). Phylogenetic analyses reveal that ray-finned fish FLERVs exhibit an overall co-speciation pattern with their hosts, while amphibian FLERVs might not. We also observe several possible ancient viral cross-class transmissions, involving lobe-finned fish, shark and frog FLERVs. Sequence examination and analyses reveal two major lineages of ray-finned fish FLERVs, one of which had gained two novel accessory genes within their extraordinarily large genomes. Our phylogenetic analyses suggest that this major retroviral lineage, and therefore retroviruses as a whole, have an ancient marine origin and originated together with, if not before, their jawed vertebrate hosts >450 million years ago in the Ordovician period, early Palaeozoic Era.