Retroviral persistence in humans


Research focus

Endogenous retroviruses (HERV) are a major component of the human genome. Constituting about 8 - 9% of the genomic DNA, they exceed by far the number of protein-coding gene sequences. Generally, they are extensively controlled and downregulated by genetic and epigenetic mechanisms. Activation by environmental factors such as chemicals, radiation and exogenous retroviruses, however, may lead to expression of undesired HERV gene products and dysregulation of cellular genes by HERV LTR sequences. The aim of our research is to elucidate the biological functions of HERVs, their involvement in evolutionary processes and their possible role in the development of disease.

Our present research focuses are

  • Expression and function of endogenous retroviruses in human neoplasms and neuropathology
  • Activation of retroviral genes by environmental factors
  • Control of gene expression by HERV regulatory sequences (LTRs)
  • Construction of tissue-specific retroviral vectors based on HERV LTRs

Head of the group

Christine Leib-Mösch (Prof. Dr. rer nat.) studied chemistry at the Technical University and biochemistry at the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich. After her habilitation in Experimental Oncology at the Ruprecht-Karls-University in Heidelberg she became a member of the Medical Faculty Mannheim, University of Heidelberg. She gives lectures and courses, and supervises students at undergraduate and graduate levels in Molecular Biology and Virology. Her major research interests are endogenous retroviruses and their interactions with host cells.