Interdisciplinary Training

Raymond Malfavon-Borja

"Evolution of a third, ancient TRIMCyp gene fusion in primates"

Recent explorations into animal genomes for endogenous viral elements have substantially increased the estimated age of lentiviruses; they are now known to be at least 4 million years old in primates. In parallel, the evolutionary history of antiviral host factors that target lentiviruses, like TRIM5α and TRIMCyp, suggest an ancient age for viruses like HIV-1. TRIMCyp, the fusion of TRIM5 effector domains with the capsid binding ability of CyclophilinA (CypA), represents a novel class of antiviral factor that convergently evolved at least twice in primates, each estimated to be 6 million years old. The global aim of my research is to discover if additional TRIMCyps exist that would shed light on the age and evolution of primate lentiviruses. This has already led to the discovery of a third TRIMCyp gene fusion that is at least 32 million years old, which considerably predates previously identified. Since the prevailing data in the field supports that TRIMCyps evolved to restrict lentiviruses, our ongoing work is designed to evaluate the antiviral activity of this ancient TRIMCyp against lentiviruses.