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Endogenous Gibbon Ape Leukemia Virus Identified in a Rodent (Melomys burtoni subsp.) from Wallacea (Indonesia)

Niccolò Alfano,a  Johan Michaux,b,c  Serge Morand,d  Ken Aplin,e  Kyriakos Tsangaras,a*  Ulrike Löber,a  Pierre-Henri Fabre,e,f  Yuli Fitriana,g  Gono Semiadi,g  Yasuko Ishida,h  Kristofer M. Helgen,e  Alfred L. Roca,h  Maribeth V. Eiden,i  Alex D. Greenwood a,j

A Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, Germany

B Conservation Genetics Unit, Institute of Botany, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium

C CIRAD, Campus international de Baillarguet, Montpellier, France

D CIRAD-CNRS, Centre d’Infectiologie Christophe Mérieux du Laos, Vientiane, Lao PDR

E National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA

F Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution de Montpellier (ISEM-UMR 5554 UM2-CNRS-IRD), Montpellier University, Montpellier, France

G Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense, Research Center For Biology, Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Cibinong, Indonesia

H Department of Animal Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, USA

I Section on Directed Gene Transfer, Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Regulation, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA

J Department of Veterinary Medicine, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany


Gibbon ape leukemia virus (GALV) and koala retrovirus (KoRV) most likely originated from a cross-species transmission of an ancestral retrovirus into koalas and gibbons via one or more intermediate as-yet-unknown hosts. A virus highly similar to GALV has been identified in an Australian native rodent (Melomys burtoni) after extensive screening of Australian wildlife. GALV-like viruses have also been discovered in several Southeast Asian species, although screening has not been extensive and viruses discovered to date are only distantly related to GALV. We therefore screened 26 Southeast Asian rodent species for KoRV- and GALV-like sequences, using hybridization capture and high-throughput sequencing, in the attempt to identify potential GALV and KoRV hosts. Only the individuals belonging to a newly discovered subspecies of Melomys burtoni from Indonesia were positive, yielding an endogenous provirus very closely related to a strain of GALV. The sequence of the critical receptor domain for GALV infection in the Indonesian M. burtoni subsp. was consistent with the susceptibility of the species to GALV infection. The second record of a GALV in M. burtoni provides further evidence that M. burtoni, and potentially other lineages within the widespread subfamily Murinae, may play a role in the spread of GALV-like viruses. The discovery of a GALV in the most western part of the Australo-Papuan distribution of M. burtoni, specifically in a transitional zone between Asia and Australia (Wallacea), may be relevant to the cross-species transmission to gibbons in Southeast Asia and broadens the known distribution of GALVs in wild rodents.

  • All
  • 2013
  • Biogeography
  • Biology
  • Chlamydia
  • Diet
  • Disease
  • Ecology
  • Ellis
  • Eucalyptus
  • Genetics
  • Habitat
  • Infection
  • Interventions
  • Koala
  • Lunney
  • Threats
  • Timms
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