Berlin-based scientists have sequenced the complete genomes of all five identified strains of the gibbon ape leukemia virus (GALV). The scientists were able to prove that selection has shaped parts of the genome of this group of viruses. This is likely as a consequence of selective pressure from the host immune systems that the viruses face. GALVs are the causative agents of hematopoietic neoplasms such as leukemia and, thus far, have been isolated exclusively from captive primates. However, GALV is used in biomedical research as a vector for cancer therapy. Therefore, the sequencing of the full genomes and the understanding of their evolution should help to enhance the GALV’s utility as viral vectors. The findings were published online on February 15, 2016 in the Journal of Virology. The article is titled “Episodic Diversifying Selection Shaped the Genomes of Gibbon Ape Leukemia Virus and Related Gammaretroviruses.” The GALVs are among the most important retroviral vectors due to their use in gene transfer and cancer gene therapy. Despite their biomedical significance, the complete genomes of all five identified strains had remained undetermined until now and their evolutionary history had been unexplored. Scientists of the Berlin Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) have sequenced the complete genomes of all five identified GALV strains using target enrichment and next-generation sequencing (NGS). GALVs have, to date, only been isolated form captive primates, primarily gibbons, although it is strongly suspected that the natural host is a rodent or bat species.
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