Characterisation of retroviruses in a major viral reservoir

Bats are reservoirs of viral pathogens, however most of these viruses are not pathogenic in these animals.

Retroviruses such as gammaretroviruses have simple genomes, in contrast to HIV, and are known to infect a wide variety of species including mice, cats, koalas and non-human primates and cause leukemias, lymphomas, neurological diseases and immunodeficiencies in these species.

Retroviruses are found in the genome of mammals and can be transmitted vertically through the germ line (i.e. endogenous) or transmitted horizontally (i.e. exogenous). Endogenous retroviral sequences are present as a critical part of eukaryotic genomes. While the majority of the sequences are defective, a few are capable of producing infectious virus spontaneously upon long-term cell culture or by treatment with chemicals.

Our analysis of the transcriptome of bat species has revealed the presence of retroviral transcripts that, at the amino acid level, demonstrate homology to extant (currently existing) gammaretroviruses found in mice, cats and koalas (Cui et al 2012 J Virol 86:4288) and betaretroviruses (Hayward et al 2013 Retrovirology 10:35) found in rodents, primates and ruminants. However, whether infectious retroviruses are produced from intact endogenous retroviruses or if exogenous retroviruses are circulating in bats are unknown.

The aim of this study is to discover exogenous retroviruses in bats. Viral RNA will be isolated from virions, the nucleotide sequence and genomic organization determined and an infectious molecular clone constructed. Reconstitution of an infectious bat endogenous retrovirus from consensus proviral sequences will also be performed and studies are in progress to determine whether exogenous retroviruses are present in bats.





  • Professor Linfa Wang, CSIRO Geelong
  • Mary Tachedjian, CSIRO Geelong
  • Glenn Marsh, CSIRO AAHL, Geelong
  • Ina Smith, CSIRO AAHL, Geelong

Contact Details

For any general enquiries relating to this project, please contact:

Professor Gilda Tachedjian

Head of Life Sciences; Head of Tachedjian Laboratory (Retroviral Biology and Antivirals)