The human genome contains a variety of genetic elements similar in structure to retroviruses and retrotransposons. We report here the structural and functional organization of a novel human endogenous retroviral family (ERV9). Three polyadenylated RNAs, 8, 2, and 1.5 kb long, are detected by Northern blot in undifferentiated embryonal carcinoma NT2/D1 cells. Upon genomic cloning of an expressed ERV9 locus, we demonstrated that the three polyadenylated RNAs are originated by a single ERV9 locus by alternative usage of splicing and polyadenylation signals. DNA sequence analysis of different ERV9 LTRs have revealed that they are heterogeneous in length and that the length variability is due to the number of tandemly repeated subelements present in both U3 and U5 regions; moreover, the ERV9 LTRs are capable to drive expression of a reporter gene in transient expression assays. Finally, analysis of the ERV9 5′ transcription start site has allowed us to define the U3-R-U5 organization of the ERV9 LTR.
ASJC Scopus subject areas