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Reference: Gemmell, P, Hein, J and Katzourakis, A, (2013). Sex-specific aspects of endogenous retroviral insertion and deletion. BMC evolutionary biology, 13 (1), 243.Citable link to this page:


Sex-specific aspects of endogenous retroviral insertion and deletion.

Abstract: BACKGROUND: We wish to understand how sex and recombination affect endogenous retroviral insertion and deletion. While theory suggests that the risk of ectopic recombination will limit the accumulation of repetitive DNA in areas of high meiotic recombination, the experimental evidence so far has been inconsistent. Under the assumption of neutrality, we examine the genomes of eighteen species of animal in order to compute the ratio of solo-LTRs that derive from insertions occurring down the male germ line as opposed to the female one (male bias). We also extend the simple idea of comparing autosome to allosome in order to predict the ratio of full-length proviruses we would expect to see under conditions of recombination linked deletion or otherwise. RESULTS: Using our model, we predict the ratio of allosomal to autosomal full-length proviruses to lie between32 and 23 under increasing male bias in mammals and between 1 and 2 under increasing male bias in birds. In contrast to our expectations, we find that a pattern of male bias is not universal across species and that there is a frequent overabundance of full-length proviruses on the allosome beyond the ratios predicted by our model. CONCLUSIONS: We use our data as a whole to argue that full-length proviruses should be treated as deleterious mutations or as effectively neutral mutations whose persistence in a full-length state is linked to the rate of meiotic recombination and whose origin is not universally male biased. These conclusions suggest that retroviral insertions on the allosome may be more prolific and that it might be possible to identify mechanisms of replication that are enhanced in the female sex.

Peer Review status:Peer reviewedPublication status:PublishedVersion:Publisher's versionNotes:© 2013 Gemmell et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Bibliographic Details

Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd.

Publisher Website:

Journal: BMC evolutionary biologysee more from them

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Issue Date: 2013


Urn: uuid:cce30694-aebd-48a1-912a-0938a182a213

Source identifier: 438698

Eissn: 1471-2148


Issn: 1471-2148 Item Description

Type: Journal article;

Language: eng

Version: Publisher's versionKeywords: Animals Mammals Humans Proviruses Mutagenesis, Insertional Terminal Repeat Sequences Sequence Deletion Birds Chromosomes Retroviridae Female Male Tiny URL: pubs:438698


Author: Gemmell, P - institutionUniversity of Oxford fundingEngineering and Physical Sciences Research Council - - - Hein, J - institutio



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