The Biochemical journal 2017 10 10474(20) 3499-3512 doi 10.1042/BCJ20170531
Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) are involved in placentation; perhaps, the most well-known ERVs are the syncytins, actively transcribed env genes involved in cell-cell fusion and possible morphological variations. However, ERVs other than syncytins that play an important role in placental development have not been well characterized. To identify ERV genes expressed during the onset of placentation in the bovine species, we characterized the expression profiles of bovine conceptus transcripts during the peri-attachment period using RNA-seq analysis, and confirming some candidates through real-time PCR. Using in silico and PCR analyses, we identified a novel ERV proviral sequence derived from a gag region, designated bovine endogenous retroviruses (BERV)-K3, containing Gag_p10 and Gag_p24, zinc finger domain. Initial expression of this ERV in bovine conceptuses was on day 20 (day 0 = day of estrus), soon after conceptus attachment to the endometrial epithelium, and its high placental expression was maintained up to the middle of pregnancy. The BERV-K3 transcript was also found in the uterine luminal and glandular epithelia, liver, kidney, intestine, and skin. BERV-K3 is located on chromosome 7 and integrated within LOC100848658, from which noncoding RNA could be transcribed. Furthermore, the expression of endogenous BERV-K3 in bovine trophoblast cell lines was induced by a WNT agonist, a signaling system common to genes expressed in placentas. These data support the argument that during the evolutionary process, mammals incorporated not only similar ERV sequences, but also ERVs unique to individual species. BERV-K3 is in the latter case, likely providing functions unique to ruminant gestation.