Affiliation: Genetika, Antropologia Fisikoa eta Animalien Fisiologia Saila. Zientzia eta Teknologia Fakultatea. Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea (UPV/EHU). 644 Postakutxa , E-48080 Bilbao, Spain.
Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) are genomic elements that are present in a wide range of vertebrates. Although the study of ERVs has been carried out mainly in humans and model organisms, recently, domestic animals have become important, and some species have begun to be analyzed to gain further insight into ERVs. Due to the availability of complete genomes and the development of new computer tools, ERVs can now be analyzed from a genome-wide viewpoint. In addition, more experimental work is being carried out to analyze the distribution, expression and interplay of ERVs within a host genome. Cats, cattle, chicken, dogs, horses, pigs and sheep have been scrutinized in this manner, all of which are interesting species in health and economic terms. Furthermore, several studies have noted differences in the number of endogenous retroviruses and in the variability of these elements among different breeds, as well as their expression in different tissues and the effects of their locations, which, in some cases, are near genes. These findings suggest a complex, intriguing relationship between ERVs and host genomes. In this review, we summarize the most important in silico and experimental findings, discuss their implications and attempt to predict future directions for the study of these genomic elements.