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Colloquium - Dr. Renee Douville

Fri. Nov. 21 12:30 PM - Fri. Nov. 21 01:20 PM
Location: 1L06

Dr. Renee Douville

University of Winnipeg, Department of Biology

Tickle me ERV: How inflammation is coupled with the induction of endogenous retrovirus-K

Dr. Renee Douville


Endogenous Retroviruses (ERVs) are genetic elements of viral origin found within the human genome. Enhanced ERV expression has been associated with several inflammatory diseases; yet the mechanism behind their induction is poorly understood. Re-activation of the most recent entrant, ERVK, has also been implicated in the neurological disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).  

Recently, our laboratory has shown that specific inflammatory signals can promote the re-activation of dormant ERVK elements within human astrocytes and neurons.  Increased expression of ERVK relies on inflammatory transcription factors binding to the viral promoter.  Inflammatory signals are also sufficient to promote viral polyprotein cleavage, leading to the formation of functional viral proteins.  It has been proposed that the ERVK viral envelope protein may be protective in neurological disease.  However, our group has demonstrated that the ERVK genome has the capacity to encode a novel viral protein with neurotoxic potential, suggesting that ERVK may play a pathologic role in select disease processes. The findings generated from our research will allow identification of novel therapeutic targets to control potentially pathogenic ERVK expression in inflammatory and neurodegenerative disease.