Ed Chuong, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute postdoc fellow at the University of Utah Department of Human Genetics, will be the featured speaker at an upcoming School of Life Sciences seminar. His talk is titled, "Rewiring of immune regulatory networks by retroviruses."
Over 8% of the human genome sequence derives from endogenous retroviruses (ERVs), which are selfish genetic elements originating from ancient retrovirus infections. While the vast majority of fixed ERV sequences have lost their protein-coding ability, large-scale genomic studies have revealed ERVs as an unexpected source of tissue-specific regulatory elements (e.g. promoters, enhancers, and non-coding RNAs) in mammalian cells. However, the biological significance of these elements remains controversial given their parasitic origins. Chuong will present ongoing work investigating a beneficial role for ERVs in the cis-regulatory "rewiring" of human immune responses. Their findings suggest that repeated co-option of retroviral regulatory sequences plays an important role in the evolution of vertebrate innate immunity.