Sequences homologous to human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) are integrated within the nuclear genome of about 1% of humans, but it is not clear how this came about. It is also uncertain whether integrated HHV-6 can reactivate into an infectious virus. HHV-6 integrates into telomeres, and this has recently been associated with polymorphisms affecting MOV10L1. MOV10L1 is located on the subtelomere of chromosome 22q (chr22q) and is required to make PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs). As piRNAs block germline integration of transposons, piRNA-mediated repression of HHV-6 integration has been proposed to explain this association. In vitro, recombination of the HHV-6 genome along its terminal direct repeats (DRs) leads to excision from the telomere and viral reactivation, but the expected “solo-DR scar” has not been described in vivo. Here we screened for integrated HHV-6 in 7,485 Japanese subjects using whole-genome sequencing (WGS). Integrated HHV-6 was associated with polymorphisms on chr22q. However, in contrast to prior work, we find that the reported MOV10L1 polymorphism is physically linked to an ancient endogenous HHV-6A variant integrated into the telomere of chr22q in East Asians. Unexpectedly, an HHV-6B variant has also endogenized in chr22q; two endogenous HHV-6 variants at this locus thus account for 72% of all integrated HHV-6 in Japan. We also report human genomes carrying only one portion of the HHV-6B genome, a solo-DR, supporting in vivo excision and possible viral reactivation. Together these results explain the recently-reported association between integrated HHV-6 and MOV10L1/piRNAs, suggest potential exaptation of HHV-6 in its coevolution with human chr22q, and clarify the evolution and risk of reactivation of the only intact (non-retro)viral genome known to be present in human germlines.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Molecular Biology
- Cancer Research