Trends Microbiol. 2023 Apr 4:S0966-842X(23)00088-4. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2023.03.008. Online ahead of print.
In humans, retroviruses thrive more as symbionts than as parasites. Apart from the only two modern exogenous human retroviruses (human T-cell lymphotropic and immunodeficiency viruses; HTLV and HIV, respectively), ~8% of the human genome is occupied by ancient retroviral DNA [human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs)]. Here, we review the recent discoveries about the interactions between the two groups, the impact of infection by exogenous retroviruses on the expression of HERVs, the effect of HERVs on the pathogenicity of HIV and HTLV and on the severity of the diseases caused by them, and the antiviral protection that HERVs can allegedly provide to the host. Tracing the crosstalk between contemporary retroviruses and their endogenized ancestors will provide better understanding of the retroviral world.