ERV9 is a low repeated family of human endogenous retroviral elements, which has close to 50 members, in addition to at least 4000 solitary LTRs. Previous work has shown that randomly selected LTRs can promote transcription of reporter genes, raising the possibility that these sequences may affect the expression of adjacent cellular genes. We report here the structural organization in different primate species of a zinc-finger coding gene whose expression is driven in humans by a solitary ERV9-LTR promoter. Using a PCR strategy and library screening, we were able to trace the origin of the insertion event in the primate lineage and to evaluate the impact of this event on gene structure. Our findings indicate that the integration of the ERV9 element occurred after the split of orangutang from the great apes, but before the divergence of the gorilla lineage. These results suggest that ERV9 elements have been mobile within the primate lineages and may still be active in humans.
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