The human genome contains abundant copies of HERV-K endogenous retrovirus sequences. These remnants of ancient infection have the potential to reshape the genome by retrotransposition or infection since they are highly expressed in cells of germ line origin. When conserved nucleotide sequence variations in the U3 region of the HERV-K 3' LTR were used to distinguish between individual HERV-K proviruses, 4 major classes of HERV-K LTRs were identified. HERV-K U3 regions from the different classes were compared in an in vitro transcription assay and were found to vary significantly in their promoter activities.

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