New Retrovirus Sequence Found in Psoriasis Lesions

Title: A new endogenous retroviral sequence is expressed in skin of patients with psoriasis.
Authors: Moles JP, et al.
Publication: Br J Dermatol. 2005 Jul;153(1):83-9.

Human endogenous retroviruses (HERV) are a part of normal human genetic code or genome. Their roles in the development of various human diseases with complex genetic traits, including psoriasis, have been proposed.

The authors wanted to determine whether human endogenous retroviruses are expressed in psoriatic skin lesion. To do this, they analyzed the genetic sequence of patients with psoriasis and atopic dermatitis, as well as healthy control subjects.

They found that 3 HERV families in psoriatic lesions, namely HERV-W, HERV-K, and HERV-E. The author also found a new endogenous retrovirus variant, related to ERV-9/HERV-W family. Sequencing of this new variant revealed possible sequences for gag protein and retrovrial protease. The authors reported expression of this sequence in 29 out of 43 (67%) psoriatic lesions, as compared to 2 of 21 (9.5%) in normal skin and 3 out of 14 (21%) in atopic dermatitis skin samples.

The authors concluded that in psoriatic lesions, HERV sequences of the W, K, and E families of human endogenous retrovirus, as well as a new variant of ERV-9/HERV-W are expressed. The authors will next determine the possible role of HERV-related sequences in the development of psoriasis.

Editor’s Note: Endogenous retroviruses are viruses that have inserted themselves into the host’s genome. The authors tested the expression of human endogenous retrovirus genes by performing a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction or RT-PCR to detect the presence of mRNA or messenger RNA. mRNA are produced from the gene’s DNA, and is a template used to produce protein.

Gag protein serves as a structural part or shell of a retrovirus. Retroviral protease is an enzyme that is involved in the formation of new virus particles.

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