The determinants of viral success in mammals: a phylogenomic study of endogenous retroviruses


Retroviruses have infected mammals for >100 million years, leaving descendants in host genomes known as endogenous retroviruses (ERVs). Retrovirus activity differs widely among species: in humans, most ERV lineages are inactive, whereas in mice they are active. Newly published mammal genomes provide new opportunities to study ERV features in a comparative framework. This BBSRC-PhD project specifically aims to understand the host biological and ecological factors that determine ERV success. The student will focus on bats, which harbour numerous viruses of public health concern, and for which there are already >10 genomes available, with more due to be released soon.


Tsagkogeorga G, Parker J, Stupka E, Cotton JA & Rossiter SJ (2013) Phylogenomic analyses elucidate the evolutionary relationships of bats (Chiroptera). Current Biology 23, 2262–2267


Peel AJ, Sargan DR, Baker KS, Hayman DTS, Barr JA, Crameri G, Suu-Ire RD, Broder CC, Lembo T, Wang LF, Fooks AR, Rossiter SJ, Wood JL & Cunningham AA (2013) Continent-wide panmixia of an African fruit bat facilitates transmission of potentially zoonotic viruses. Nature Communications 4, 2770


Aiewsakun P & Katzourakis A (2015) Endogenous viruses: Connecting recent and ancient viral evolution Virology 479, 26-37


Aswad A & Katzourakis A (2015) Convergent capture of retroviral superantigens by mammalian herpesviruses. Nature communications 6, 8299.


Dr?gan M, Moghul I, Priyam A, Bustos C & Wurm Y (2016) GeneValidator: identify problems with protein-coding gene predictions. Bioinformatics doi: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btw015

Biological Areas:



Animal disease, health and welfare
Genes, development and STEM approaches to biology