The ovine genome contains approximately 20 copies of endogenous betaretroviruses (enJSRVs) that are highly related to two exogenous oncogenic viruses, Jaagsiekte sheep retrovirus (JSRV) and Enzootic nasal tumor virus. The cellular receptor for both JSRV and the enJSRVs is hyaluronidase 2 (HYAL2). In this study, we assessed expression of enJSRVs envelope (env) and HYAL2 mRNAs in the ovine uterus and conceptus (embryo/fetus and extraembryonic membranes) throughout gestation. By reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction analyses, enJSRVs env were found to be expressed beginning in the Day 12 conceptus, whereas HYAL2 was expressed from Day 16. HYAL2 mRNA was detected throughout gestation in the placentome but not in the endometrium, whereas enJSRVs env expression was detected throughout gestation in endometrium and placentomes. The enJSRVs env mRNA was specifically expressed in the endometrial lumenal epithelium (LE) and glandular epithelium (GE) as well as the trophoblast giant binucleate cells (BNC) and multinucleated syncytia of the placenta. HYAL2 mRNA was only detected in the BNC and multinucleated syncytial plaques of the placentome. Partial sequencing of the transcriptionally active enJSRVs from sheep endometrium, placentomes, and placenta revealed expression of many enJSRV loci. Cloning of the expressed enJSRVs env mRNA from ovine uteroplacental tissues found sequences similar to the previously identified enJS5F16 and enJS56A1 gene with an intact open reading frame, although the polypeptides they encode were not studied. Collectively, results provide further support for our hypothesis that the enJSRVs Env have been beneficial to the host and are involved in protection of the uterus from viral infection and regulators of placental morphogenesis and function.
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