Human endogenous retroviruses


Research focus

Endogenous retroviruses (HERV) are a major component of the human genome. Constituting about 8 - 9% of the genomic DNA, they exceed by far the number of protein-coding gene sequences. Generally, they are extensively controlled and downregulated by genetic and epigenetic mechanisms. Activation by environmental factors such as chemicals, radiation and exogenous retroviruses, however, may lead to expression of undesired HERV gene products and dysregulation of cellular genes by HERV LTR sequences. The aim of our research is to elucidate the biological functions of HERVs, their involvement in evolutionary processes and their possible role in the development of disease.

Our present research focuses are

  • Deciphering the functional role of HERVs in stem cell differentiation and brain development
  • Expression and function of endogenous retroviruses in cancer and neuropathology
  • Activation of retroviral genes by environmental factors
  • Control of gene expression by HERV regulatory sequences (LTRs)