The Potential Role of Endogenous Viral Elements in the Evolution of Bats as Reservoirs for Zoonotic Viruses.
Skirmuntt EC., Escalera-Zamudio M., Teeling EC., Smith A., Katzourakis A.
Despite a small genome size, bats have comparable diversity of retroviral and non-retroviral endogenous sequences to other mammals. These include Class I and Class II retroviral sequences, foamy viruses, and deltaretroviruses, as well as filovirus, bornavirus, and parvovirus endogenous viral elements. Some of these endogenous viruses are sufficiently preserved in bat genomes to be expressed, with potential effects for host biology. It is clear that the bat immune system differs when compared with other mammals, yet the role that virus-derived endogenous elements may have played in the evolution of bat immunity is poorly understood. In this review, we discuss some of the bat-specific immune mechanisms that may have resulted in a virus-tolerant phenotype and link these to the long-standing virus-host coevolution that may have allowed a large diversity of endogenous retroviruses and other endogenous viral elements to colonize bat genomes. We also consider the possible effects of endogenization in the evolution of the bat immune system.